What you need to know

98% of consumers own a television, and 64% watched live or recorded cable TV over the past month, making television a powerful channel brands can use to forge connections with consumers. Video ads provide a far more compelling vehicle for communicating brand messages than static ads, and television advertising continues to account for the largest share of ad spending.

However, television advertising also faces significant competition, along with upheaval from the COVID-19 crisis. Consumers are spending more time with social media, gaming and other digital forms of entertainment – including subscription and ad-supported streaming video platforms that compete directly with traditional television. Meanwhile, although the pandemic has stranded many consumers at home and driven increases in viewership, it’s also caused many advertisers to cut back – and either paused or delayed sports and other programming.

In this Report, Mintel discusses how television advertising has fared during this turbulent time, projects when the industry might hope to rebound and suggests strategies for future success.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • Television advertising revenue trends and projections

  • Competitive forces impacting the sector and potential growth strategies

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer television viewing

  • Consumer attitudes toward television advertising and openness toward advertising in general

This Report was written in July 2020. Consumer research was fielded in June 2020 and reflects attitudes and behaviors toward television advertising as the country began to re-emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown phase.


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel defines television advertising (ie commercials) as those seen through traditional television sets viewed through either cable or broadcast. This includes ads seen live at time of broadcast, recorded on DVR or viewed on demand. Market size figures are focused on national and local broadcast and national cable only and exclude local cable and on demand advertising.

Ads seen through digital platforms such as websites or subscription or ad-supported streaming services are discussed only as competitors, whether from third parties or television networks. For trends regarding online and other digital video ads, please see Digital Advertising: Incl Impact of COVID-19 – US, September 2020.

COVID-19: Market context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic, and on March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in the US.

Across the US, state-level stay-at-home orders rolled out throughout the months of March and April, remaining in place through May and in some cases June. During this time, referred to as lockdown, non-essential businesses and school districts across the nation closed or shifted to remote operations.

During re-emergence, all 50 states have relaxed stay-at-home orders and allowed businesses to operate with varying levels of social distancing measures in place. The continued spread of COVID-19 infections has driven some states to slow down or reverse course on reopening plans. Mintel anticipates the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021, until a vaccine is available.

Economic and other assumptions

The forecast and analysis provided reflects an estimated range of the market’s prospects in light of the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 crisis. This forecast is driven by Mintel analysts’ understanding of consumer behavior in this market, alongside an evaluation of how exposed this sector is to the crisis and how quickly demand will return to previous levels once a degree of normality returns to the market. Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the updated global forecasts released by the IMF on April 14, 2020. The IMF expects US GDP to fall by 5.9% in 2020 and recover to 4.7% growth in 2021. Mintel’s unemployment estimate comes from CBO projections released April 24, 2020, which indicate a sharp rise to nearly 14% in Q2 2020, remaining high through Q3 before recovering slightly to 11.7% by the end of the year, with a 10.1% rate by the end of 2021. The current uncertainty means there is wide variation in the forecasts.

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