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Political Advertising in 2020 Kept Local TV Revenues Solid; Industry Reached $19.7B Despite Pandemic

Jun 10, 2021

Core Ads Will Grow in 2021 as Economy Begins to Rebound; Station Transaction Volume Falls to $3.6B

CHANTILLY, Va. (June 10, 2021) – While the pandemic had a big impact on local television revenues in 2020, the November elections ultimately kept the industry in a good position by year-end, according to the first quarter edition of BIA Advisory Services’ 2021 Investing In Television® Market Report.  Over-the-air (OTA) revenues reached $18.3 billion last year, with another $1.4 billion coming from digital revenues to make $19.7 billion total, versus a combined $18.3 billion in 2019. Political advertising alone accounted for $4.4 billion in 2020 to deliver a softer landing to an otherwise negatively impacted industry.

A deeper dive into the numbers in 2020 shows that core advertising – defined as OTA revenue minus political advertising – drove industry revenues down negative 23.1 percent, like the impact the pandemic had on broadcast radio. But the rebound will slightly begin this year, with BIA estimating that core OTA advertising will rise 5.4 percent and revenues projected to be $14.9 billion for the year and in 2022 total local over the air station revenues are forecasted at $17.8 billion.

PR-OTA TV Growth 2015-2025

“This past year demonstrated that local television stations are doing the right thing by continuing to strengthen their digital and multi-media sales efforts,” said Mark Fratrik, SVP and chief economist at BIA Advisory Services. “They also need to continue to develop strategies that incorporate over-the-top (OTT) sales to reach specific audiences, while simultaneously reaching the broader local viewers. OTT increasingly is becoming a competitive and complementary advertising platform for local television station operators.”

PR-TV Station Revenue July 2021

In addition to the standard big television advertisers like automotive and general services verticals, growth in core advertising this year will come from business verticals that are hyper-focused on market needs and new entrants like Online Gambling, according to Fratrik. These verticals and their estimated ad spend include:

  • Spending by consumer lending and mortgages will be up 45 percent in 2021, as increased competition from digital and technology companies and banks shift to products that deliver immediate client value. TV OTA and TV Online[1] advertising is expected to be over $2 billion in 2021.
  • As people go on vacation and back to work and school, clothing store advertising will rise almost 45 percent. TV OTA and TV Online advertising is expected to be nearly $4.3 billion in 2021.
  • Auto & Direct Property Insurance will grow 33 percent this year as the home buying boom continues along with home insurance needs. TV OTA and TV Online advertising is expected to be $4.2 billion in 2021.
  • Direct Health and Medical Insurance Carriers will increase their advertising by 29 percent, as consumers look to switch providers for seamless services and flexible coverage. TV OTA and TV Online advertising is expected to be $2.3 billion in 2021.
  • Online Gambling, a newer and growing vertical, will be just over $1 billion in 2021. TV OTA and TV Online advertising is expected to be nearly $464 million.

One other aspect that BIA will continue to track is the Summer Olympics in Japan. As concerns linger about the likelihood of the games taking place, Fratrik said if they do commence, estimates for television will increase and BIA will report on them.

Purchasing the Forecast

The new television forecast includes retransmission consent data, along with a comprehensive profile of all 210 television markets (plus Puerto Rico). It is available in the first-quarter edition of Investing In Television® Market Report and in the software database, Media Access Pro™, a data and analytical service that delivers comprehensive information on the radio, television and newspaper industries.

In addition to the television forecast, BIA delivers nationwide and local market forecasts for 16 media and 95 verticals in BIA ADVantage, a local market intelligence dashboard. For more details, email

[1]  Online television advertising includes local advertising sold by local stations (i.e., station snippets of news and other programming available through a stations’ websites and mobile applications). Includes the share retained by local television stations after reselling other online platforms (e.g., Google AdWords). It does not include over-the-top (OTT) or CTV.

About BIA Advisory Services

BIA Advisory Services is the leading authority for data-centered insights, analysis, strategic consulting, and valuation services for the local media industry. Since 1983, BIA has been a valuable resource for traditional and digital media companies, brands and agencies, the financial and legal community serving media and telecom, as well as the FCC and other government agencies. Today, we offer comprehensive local market advertising intelligence in our BIA ADVantageTM service to help clients discover the path to their best opportunities. Learn more about our offerings at

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