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130 Billion Reasons Why TV Will Still Matter to Advertisers

Dave Morgan
Dave Morgan  |  Executive Chairman
Published: Jul. 28, 2021

I wrote recently about the $130 billion annual connected TV ad spend projection for 2030 made by Dan Salmon, the prescient BMO Capital Markets media and internet analyst. A key pillar in Salmon’s analysis was the fact that, finally, internet advertising over the next decade would begin share-shifting ad dollars out of TV with the development of targetable CTV ad inventory.

A number of folks reached out, wondering whether linear TV would even be around in 2030 -- and whether it would still have a meaningful share of ad spend. Finally, they wondered what the "total” TV ad spend might be in the U.S. in 2030 (CTV + linear TV). My answers are yes, yes -- and $130+ billion.

Basically, I believe that if you abstract the total TV ad market in 2030, it will be $100 billion of CTV and $30+ billion of linear TV.

For sure, the growth of CTV ad spend is going to be huge as more Americans stream their TV content through internet-connected dongles and apps. However, viewing of TVs connected to set-top boxes and digital antennas aren't going away entirely. Even in 2030, we’re still likely to have 25% of U.S. homes using linear connections as a primary TV content source, and half of U.S. homes still using it to supplement their streaming.

How is that possible? Don’t forget, consumer adoption of new technologies always takes time, particularly when folks have to change long-held behaviors related to consuming media. Cost is a factor, too, since broadcast TV viewing is free.

For guidance sizing up the linear portion of total TV ad spend in nine years, I looked to one of the very top TV analysts on Wall Street, Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson, and his U.S. ad spend report from March, 2021. In his five-year projections, Nathanson also predicted massive increases in digital ad spend, but forecast that traditional TV’s market share would drop from 33% of spend in 2020 to 20% in 2025. That would still amount to well over $60 billion annually at that time, because that total U.S. ad market would grow significantly to the $400 billion range as it captures marketing spend that has historically gone to pure direct-marketing channels.

Nathanson believes TV will keep a respectable share of ad spend because it will still do well with top-of-the-funnel ad expenditures given its mass reach characteristics, costs and audience composition. I think he’s spot-on.

So, how did I get to the incremental $30+ billion going to linear TV inventory above and beyond the $100 billion consumed by CTV? I still expect 75 million Americans to watch two to three hours of linear TV a day in 2030, and another hundred million plus to watch 30 minutes to an hour a day. They will watch more than 12 minutes of ads each hour. That alone gets me to an incremental $30+ billion a year: three trillion impressions against persons two years old and older of 15- and 30-second ads at a $10 CPM. The impression count is a fraction of what linear TV delivers today, and the CPM is probably double today’s on a P2+ basis.

My sense is that this holds pretty well against Nathanson’s numbers, given the relative stability he sees in traditional TV ad spend from 2020 to 2025. Of course, in comparing and partially combining Salmon’s and Nathanson’s numbers, I know there’s a certain amount of double-counting, since each of their projections include some CTV spend that the other might count as TV, and TV that the other might count as CTV streamed.

However, given how strong and bottoms-up each of their analysis is, and the audience scale linear TV will still have in 2030, I believe that the $130+ billion total TV number holds up well.

What makes me feel especially secure with that predicted total for 2030 is the number of strong tailwinds that will drive ad spend on video screens that dominate users’ attention. They include:

  • Video will continue to take share from display media.
  • Video will continue to take share from direct marketing as it becomes more targetable.
  • Video will be the major player in retail advertising as e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Instacart drive increasing margins from ads.
  • Video ads will play a big part in the future of gaming as the free-to-play games movement shifts from mobile to console and PC gaming.

What do you think? Is it crazy to see a total TV ad market of $130+ billion in the U.S. in 2030?

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An earlier version of this blog was originally published by MediaPost.