Advertising at three of America's big four national broadcast TV networks declined last year, despite a fourth-quarter upturn.

Figures compiled by Ernst & Young for the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association show that in the last three months of 2003, ad revenues at ABC, CBS and NBC jumped 3% year-on-year to $2.97 billion (€2.35bn; £1.58bn). However, for the full year the trio pulled in $10.46bn in advertising, a decline of 1%.

The networks were hit by a drop in ad revenues during sports programming, down 30% to $1.77bn. The decline was so severe because this sector had been boosted in 2002 by the Winter Olympics.

The only other programming category to show a fall in advertising was children's, down 10% to $38.6m.

On the plus side, however, ad revenues rose on the prime-time (+8% to $5.9bn), late-night (+16% to $642 million) and morning (+ 13% to $704m) categories.

NBC is owned by General Electric, CBS by Viacom and ABC by Walt Disney Company. News Corporation's Fox -- the final member of the big four -- was not included in the figures.

Despite last year's slide, 2004 is expected to be strong for advertising, due to the Olympic Games in the summer and the presidential elections.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff