Private Equity Honcho Hypes US Communications Spend

08 August 2007

NEW YORK: Private-equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson, which focuses on the communications, media and information industries in North America and Europe, dusted-off its crystal ball on Tuesday to reveal a rosy vision of US media spending in 2008 - both by consumers and businesses.

Total all-media spend, predicts VSS, will exceed $1 trillion (€725.21bn; £492.78bn) next year, presumably using the standard US definition of 'one thousand times one billion'.

Given its commercial focus, VSS does not lack an incentive to talk-up prospects for the US comms industry, spurred perhaps by the economic storm-warning issued late June by the respected "bankers' bank", the Bank for International Settlements.

No surprise, then, that VSS' annual Communications Industry Forecast predicts paid-for media consumption by consumers, plus media spending by advertisers, marketing services and institutions, will rise an average 6.7% annually from $942 billion in 2007 to $1.2 trillion in 2011.

If achieved, this would elevate media to the third fastest-growing element in the US economy, lagging only agriculture and the federal government.

The eybrows of VSS managing director James P Rutherfurd (one of sixteen at the firm) arched at the surge in spending by Joe Public, noting that although business and industry account for the lion's share of media spending, "the overall change in consumer … usage was the biggest surprise" this year.

But the shift from traditional to digital media is starting to slow, opines report contributor Patrick Quinn. He predicts that TV usage will continue to grow, with the average consumer spending 1,073 hours with cable and satellite TV in 2011, up seventy-six hours from last year.

Rutherfurd explains the trend thus: "People are migrating to niche channels, and you see a lot more dollars being thrown at new productions for basic networks. It's not just HBO. Now, you've got TNT doing it, FX doing it, ESPN."

Also, downloaded and timeshift viewing will atone for a fall in watching broadcast TV, with the average consumer in 2011 spending $8.95 to download shows or watch online, versus $0.98 in 2006.

And broadcast and satellite radio audiences will listen less (down slightly from 778 hours annually in 2006 to 751 hours in 2011), despite which they will spend $18.84, up from $5.79, mostly on satellite radio services.

Over the same period, the average consumer will spend $46.44 and 154 hours on print and online newspapers - down $2.16 and 24 hours from last year.

Data sourced from USA Today; additional content by WARC staff