Early War Ad Losses Pegged at $100m for US TV Stations

26 March 2003

America’s TV broadcasters lost less than expected as war broke out, according to estimates by Advertising Age.

Network, cable, local and syndicated operators are thought to have suffered advertising losses of $100.5 million (€93.9m; £63.9m) in the first 48 hours of the conflict, which began Wednesday. This sum is lower than previously feared.

It had been thought the war would start with the much-hyped ‘shock and awe’ tactics, with advertisers pulling campaigns and broadcasters running coverage uninterrupted by commercial breaks. However, the slow start to the conflict encouraged many stations to continue running ads and normal TV schedules from March 19 to March 21, when coalition forces began heavy bombardment of Baghdad.

“It's different from what we initially expected,” explained Jim Hoffman, senior vp of ad sales at NBC News and MSNBC. “When the war first started on Wednesday, we were all waiting for this ‘wow’ thing to happen. But, obviously, it was delayed, and it was probably appropriate to run commercials at that time because it was pretty soft; we weren't seeing the pictures we are seeing right now.”

Far higher adspend losses – not just for TV, but also print media – are expected as the fighting intensifies and the casualty list mounts.

Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff