David Poltrack sees steady growth for network TV business


The new forecast for 2012 by CBS Corporation Chief Research Officer David Poltrack is a lot like the forecast he delivered last year for 2011 to the annual UBS media conference in New York. If you look at the core business, excluding the Olympics, he’s expecting the network TV business to grow by 5% in the coming year.

A year ago Poltrack was predicting that 2011 would bring ad revenue growth of 3.4% to the Big Four networks, which worked out to 5% core growth.

“At this time last year we were fairly confident that we were on the road to recovery, but less confident regarding the pace of that recovery. Moving to the present time, we remain confident that we’re on the road to recovery and still less confident about the pace of that recovery,” Poltrack told the annual UBS gathering on Monday (12/5).

The veteran researcher said consumers are spending, which is driving the recovery, but that belt tightening by governments is keeping the pace of recovery slow. And while scatter prices are still ahead of the upfront, advertisers are a bit cautious. “Marketers want to get out in front, but not too far out in front of the consumer as that consumer increases spending,” he explained.

Despite some holding back by advertisers as 2011 comes to an end, Poltrack is still confident that the year will come in at about his original forecast of 3.4% growth for the networks, with core growth of 5%.

The Summer Olympics will be back on NBC in 2012, so while Poltrack is sticking with 5% core growth, the Olympics bump takes that to 7.3%.

“I would use the analogy of a NASCAR race to describe the current television advertising market. The latest economic setbacks have resulted in the advertisers operating under a caution flag in the 4th quarter. They are jockeying for position, conserving fuel and fine-tuning their strategy, but no one has dropped out of the race. As soon as the economic clouds clear ant the green flag is given they will begin competing at full throttle to capture a share of the increased consumer spending,” Poltrack said. “The only question is, when will they see that green flag?”