Emarketer

There’s a sobering new forecast from eMarketer about the future of U.S. television advertising spending: It may have reached its apex already.

The research firm notes that linear audiences have long been shrinking—and that trend may now be working its way into the realm of TV advertising dollars.

According to eMarketer, U.S. TV ad spending is projected to fall almost 3% this year to $70.3 billion. The forecast says it may never return to its 2018 high of $72.4 billion.

In the short term, the outlook says, there will be a 1% bump next year in U.S. television ad spend—which includes broadcast and cable TV linear spend, though not digital. That’s thanks to the presidential election campaign and the Summer Olympics. But the spending is expected to fall 1% each subsequent year to $68.9 billion by 2023.

In 2019, eMarketer estimates, U.S. television’s total ad share will sink below 30% for the first time. By 2022, that number is expected to fall below 25% of total U.S. ad spending.

“TV ad growth can be heavily impacted by world events, so it’s possible that spending could return TV to $72 billion again,” eMarketer forecasting director Monica Peart said in a statement. “But it is unlikely that it will exceed that going forward, as ratings and viewership declines accelerate.”

The growth of cord cutting is fueling the decline, with the proliferation of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+, which rolled out Tuesday, also playing a key factor. Over the summer eMarketer projected that U.S. cord-cutter households will jump 19% in 2019 to 21.9 million—reducing the number of pay TV households to 86.5 million. By 2023, that number is expected to shrink to 72.7 million.

As cord-cutting grows, connected TV ad spending is expected to increase, eMarketer says. It will grow to $7 billion in 2019, more than $10 billion by 2021, and reach $14 billion by 2023, at which point it will account for 4.7% of total media ad spending.