By next year, Meta is forecast to earn more from advertising than the entire global linear TV market, according to WARC Media data.

Tucked away in the latest Global Ad Spend report from WARC Media (Social media reaches new peaks) is a prediction that would have seemed frankly impossible a decade ago: next year, in 2025, Facebook and Instagram-owner Meta is likely to overtake the entire global linear TV market as a generator of advertiser revenue.

According to WARC Media forecasts, Meta is expected to earn $155.6bn in 2024, only a few billion short of the $163.0bn forecast to be spent on linear TV advertising worldwide over the same period. At the current trajectory, more ad dollars will be invested with Facebook and Instagram in 2025 than in ads appearing on every single linear TV channel on the planet.

Yes, that includes NBC. And CBS. And Fox. And ITV. And RTL. And TF1. And Seven Network. And all the rest. It’s a sobering thought for those broadcasters trying to keep the lights on while managing the effect of tightening content budgets and dwindling linear audiences.

Global, Meta and linear TV ad spend graph

Now, before you throw the remote control at your laptop (or however you’re reading the article), you’re correct in pointing out that linear TV doesn’t include any of the streaming-based platforms that many hope will save the television industry. Yet even the ‘total TV’ market including BVOD and SVOD – forecast to be worth $196.0bn in 2024 – may be chased down by Meta within a few years, given CTV spend to date has mostly been redirected from linear TV.

How Meta has come to matter more

That a single digital media owner will soon outgrow a medium that has been integral to advertising effectiveness over the last 50-plus years is significant on many levels.

Firstly, it underlines the fact that the media market as we once knew it has been replaced by a two-paced ecosystem, in which digital gatekeepers like Alphabet, Amazon and Meta are able to grow at GDP-busting rates while the rest of the market is scarcely bigger than it was five years ago.

Some, including Matt Hill, director of research and planning at Thinkbox, argue the time has come to view ad investment through a new lens – one that doesn’t enable a rapid increase in spend with the likes of Meta to give a false impression of the wider health of the market.

Big Tech has certainly benefited enormously from a form of “digital rent”, as dubbed by Dr Grace Kite, and a desire to maintain digital availability – a very different aim to that which has informed the majority of ad campaigns in years gone by.

Secondly, the growing centrality of performance marketing has helped Meta to disproportionately gain from emerging categories and brand types.

First came the wave of private equity-backed direct-to-consumer brands, since diminished in the wake of higher inflation; more recently the emergence of big-spending Chinese advertisers like Temu. Meta’s full-year revenue from China in 2023 stood at $13.7bn (+85.1%), accounting for five percentage points towards its annual growth, while its growth from North American advertisers has slowed to single-digit levels.

That’s not to say that new category brands do not advertise elsewhere in the media ecosystem. Temu spent a reported $21m on a trio of ads during this year’s Super Bowl, while, in the UK, used car sales websites like Cinch and Cazoo have invested heavily in brand-building advertising and sponsorship programmes to escape the ‘performance plateau’ and reach a broader audience.

However – and this is the crucial point – spend with channels like TV moves up and down in tune with factors like category health, consumer confidence and the economic climate. In contrast, and no matter any concerns about brand safety breaches and rising ad costs, a sizeable chunk of marketers consider it impossible to shift budgets away from platforms like those owned by Meta.

For better or worse, these platforms are becoming more central to how brands reach their audiences. There may yet be a sting in the tail in terms of rising ad loads, cluttered environments and increasing costs, compromising the efficiency of advertising on Facebook or Instagram. But, for now, marketers appear content in Meta’s embrace.