Research: Long-Form DRTV Billings Start 2017 on the Wrong Foot

2Q long-form media billings

After suffering through a ninth losing year in the past decade in 2016, long-form DRTV media billings are off to a good start — if you’re looking for the space to make it 10 down years out of 11. The quarter’s total of $210,806,800 marks an 11.7-percent slide from 1Q 2016 and rounds out a full calendar year — four consecutive quarters — of losses for long-form DRTV in Response’s own research.

Slipping prices for a half-hour block — especially in the satellite sector — drove another expansion in time slots purchased, but nearly every other market indicator suffered in first-quarter 2017.

Any Success Was Merely ‘Cosmetic’

Just five of the 15 measured categories reported gains in 1Q 2017. “Cosmetics, Hair, and Personal Care” notched a $10.5 million increase (16.3 percent) to strengthen its hold as the long-form market’s top category. The other notable increase came in “Fundraising”: a $4.8 million bump more than doubled 1Q 2016’s results for the category.

Among the losers, the “Health and Fitness” category — another of long-form’s traditional leaders — dipped $16.4 million (a 26-percent dive). Three additional categories suffered troubling losses, as well: “Entertainment, Travel, and Psychic Services” ($14.1 million); “Housewares and Appliances” ($3.8 million); and “Other” ($3.3 million).

Finding a Balance?

Just one of the four media outlets gained spending in first-quarter 2017, and that was due to a massive influx of time slots purchased in the satellite space prompted by a 56-percent dip in pricing. Satellite gained $1.4 million (10.8 percent) and 1.4 points of market share. The national cable market lost $17.4 million (15.7 percent) and more than two points of market share, while broadcast spending dipped $11.2 million (10.5 percent) and U.S. Hispanic spending slid by nearly $700,000 (8.9 percent).

The total number of time slots purchased rose by more than 70,000 (11.2 percent) in first-quarter 2017, with the average cost of a half-hour block dipping by an astounding 20.6 percent ($78.51). The lions’ share of those price decreases came — as noted — in the satellite sector, but cable pricing also continued its downward trend, losing 15 percent per spot compared to 1Q 2016. Total time slots were up in satellite (149 percent) and broadcast (3.6 percent). Cable was stable — a 0.7-percent decrease in time slots — while U.S. Hispanic lost 32.8 percent compared to the year prior.

Spending in the top 30 markets dipped $10.6 million. Spending in the top 10 markets slid $6 million (10.9 percent); spending in markets 11-20 was off by $3.1 million (11.7 percent); and spending in markets 21-30 was down $1.4 million (9 percent) compared to 1Q 2016 results.

Though the long-form market has seemed more stable during the past two years — after some sizeable losses in 2013-14 — this first-quarter result sounds an alarm that many long-time DRTV experts are loathe to hear. While the market seems healthy if you look at the recent expansions in time slots purchased, pricing decreases — some necessary after years of high cable pricing — are sucking the life out of the market’s spending totals. Can the long-form market find a better balance between slots purchased and stable pricing as 2017 unfolds? ■


Long-Form Media Indices are conducted quarterly by the staff of Response. It represents in-house, non-brokered media billings for all agencies and marketers known to have purchased long-form (30 minutes) media during first-quarter 2017.

Companies that couldn’t or wouldn’t reveal their media billings by press time were estimated based on previous responses to surveys on the quarter in question and based on projects they were known to be involved with.

For the survey, the top 10 markets include: New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Dallas-Ft. Worth; San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; and Houston.

Markets 11-20 are: Detroit; Seattle-Tacoma; Phoenix; Tampa-St. Petersburg; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Miami-Fort Lauderdale; Denver; Cleveland; Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne; and Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto.

Markets 21-30 are: St. Louis; Portland, Ore.; Pittsburgh; Raleigh-Durham; Charlotte; Indianapolis; Baltimore; San Diego; Nashville; and Hartford-New Haven.