TV industry looks to a brighter 2014

An advertising recovery is forecast, but spending by FMCG sector has been weak

Packing a punch: ratings successes  such as Love/Hate will continue to make TV a heavy hitter. From left Elmo (Laurence Kinlan), Nidge (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and Ado (Mark Dunne) discussing what to do with Tommy (Killian Scott).  photograph: bernard walsh

Packing a punch: ratings successes such as Love/Hate will continue to make TV a heavy hitter. From left Elmo (Laurence Kinlan), Nidge (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and Ado (Mark Dunne) discussing what to do with Tommy (Killian Scott). photograph: bernard walsh

 

After surprisingly poor advertising revenues in the first half of 2013, the Irish television industry is collectively pinning its hopes on more benign conditions in the new year. The market, worth €200 million in 2012, will be down between 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent in 2013, according to various industry estimates.

“The second half of the year has been better than the first half, there’s no doubt about that. But it has been very difficult, because there is no real pattern,” says Eddie O’Mahony, trading director at media-buying agency Core Media.

“Ultimately the market is still depressed,” he concludes, forecasting a decline of 2.5-3 per cent for this year.

He expects growth of between 2 and 3 per cent next year, though with the health warning that it’s a crystal-ball forecast. “We are living in this short-term planning cycle of 60 to 90 days, and nobody really knows anything beyond that.”

Viewing trends suggest that television is in good shape, notes Paul Moran, managing director of agency Mediaworks. “Television is going to continue as the most impactful medium,” he says, citing ratings successes such as RTÉ’s drama Love/Hate, the GAA football and hurling championships and the Late Late Toy Show. While the last two are annual fixtures for RTÉ, Love/Hate won’t be around forever.

Next big thing
“We just expect one more series,” says Moran. “But that’s a challenge for every broadcaster – how do you maintain your success? You can be sure that people in Montrose are looking right now at what will be the next big thing.”

One of the guaranteed “big things” for RTÉ in 2014 will be the World Cup. “The fact that Ireland aren’t in it never makes a massive difference to viewing figures,” says RTÉ Television commercial director Geraldine O’Leary. She predicts 3-5 per cent growth next year, but agrees it is “a 90-day world” now. “Everybody got their 2013 previews wrong. The second quarter was pretty awful and nobody really saw it coming.”

Richard Kelly, sales director of Sky Media Ireland, estimates the market will finish down about 3 per cent this year, “which isn’t bad compared to other media”.

Sky’s the limit
Like O’Leary, he cites “a number of positive conversations” with advertisers. Sky’s advertising revenues in Ireland are on the rise, Kelly says, partly because it has added channels to its portfolio, but also due to underlying growth.

“Sky are going in the right direction,” says Bill Kinlay, chief executive of the agency Mindshare. In terms of adult commercial impacts – a measure of viewers’ exposure to advertisements – RTÉ One has been flat this year, while a strong performance by 3e has lifted TV3 group overall.

Viewing on RTÉ Two, the broadcaster’s “problem child”, as Kinlay puts it, has fallen, but O’Leary says this is due to the unflattering comparison to the previous year, when it broadcast both Euro 2012 and the London Olympics.

Although there has been a slight rise in total viewing of scheduled television, revenues have not followed suit, notes Kinlay, who estimates that the market decline will be as much as 5 per cent this year.

While the retail, motors and financial services categories have recovered, the big laggard is the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) category, which has shifted to short-term in-store promotions rather than long-term, above-the-line brand-building.

The FMCG category has been “disappointing”, says Pat Kiely, commercial director at TV3. “They have reduced their investment not just in television, but in Ireland,” he says. “Television has taken share from other media for the fifth or sixth year running, so there are high levels of optimism.”

Although agencies seem less sure, both TV3 and RTÉ believe the FMCG brands will return to their screens. "They’re falling back in love with television again," says O'Leary. "That’s what we are hearing."