US Power Failure Prompts Ad Revenue Blackout

19 August 2003

America’s TV stations are counting the cost of the blackout that hit north-eastern states late last week.

Early estimates from media buyers suggest broadcasters lost a total of between $10 million (€8.9m; £6.3m) and $20m in national and local ad revenues as they ditched normal schedules in favour of uninterrupted news.

It is thought local stations and syndicated TV programming bore the brunt of the ad revenue losses. All the big networks ran non-stop news for about three hours after the blackout began, but this was largely before the start of their prime-time schedules (when they run shows and carry advertising).

With the exception of ABC, the big networks ran their usual schedules after 8.00pm, though some stations on the east coast stayed with news programming interspersed with commercials during prime-time.

Pundits believe the blackout also hit the local and national television ratings by Nielsen Media Research’s – for the simple reason that people couldn’t switch on their TV sets. This problem is expected to be particularly acute in New York, Detroit and Cleveland.

The effect on the TV audience will likely hit local media buyers the hardest, as they are not offered guaranteed ratings.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff