The Drum Awards Festival - Extended Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Future of TV TV Advertising Media Planning and Buying

TV ad price inflation is keeping media buyers up at night


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

March 7, 2022 | 4 min read

A volatile TV buying market has pushed ad price inflation through the roof, with Zenith’s chief strategy officer Richard Kirk claiming at Thinkbox’s TV in Focus event that it is the biggest challenge for media buyers right now.

TV inflation up 30-40% YoY

TV inflation up 30-40% YoY

“Of all the things that have made the last year difficult, inflation has been the one we’ve spent the most time talking about and trying to develop new technologies to mitigate,” says Kirk. “Inflation is absolutely something keeping us up at night.”

According to the ECI Media Management Inflation Report, the price of TV slots increased 32% YoY in 2021, having fallen 12% the previous year, and The Drum has heard others estimate inflation as high as 40% YoY.

“Media prices inflated overall in 2021 and this was particularly true in key markets and especially for TV, which saw increasing inflation as the year progressed and hit a high in Q4,” says Fredrik Kinge, global chief executive officer of ECI Media Management.

“TV and online media represent the lion’s share of most media budgets, so as their prices increase it is more important than ever that advertiser media investments are effective, optimized and transparent.”

It is thought the combination of tighter advanced booking (AB) deadlines, pandemic uncertainty and the growth of ad-based video-on-demand (AVOD) has made pricing incredibly tricky to forecast, thus fostering conditions for market volatility. Kirk calls inflation an “ongoing headache” and stresses that “long term volatility isn’t great for anybody“ and that “there should be incentives for that to be reduced”.

Rebecca Candeland, head of broadcast planning firm Total Media, raises concerns that the “advertisers who pulled back TV spend during the pandemic have returned to an inflated market that is squeezing them out”. She says Total Media has been working to reassure and educate advertisers that the benefit of TV advertising outweigh the price increase.

“Compounding the situation further is the Fifa World Cup in Q4 of this year, which is leaving planners confused about where to put spend and will drive up the price of Christmas ad spots,“ she adds.

Inflation is largely affecting prices in the 16- to 34-year-old demographic. According to Thinkbox data, prices for adults and ABC1 is still affordable, but the younger demo is “getting a lot more expensive”. AA/WARC data showed that in 2021, average cost per thousand (CPT) jumped from just under £40 to over £50, while the same year the average CPT in adults-only marginally grew, to roughly 25p more.

Matt Hill, the director of research and planning at Thinkbox, argues that inflation “isn’t a particularly helpful measure as its very emotive and doesn’t tell us anything that can help us from a planning point of view”.

According to Thinkbox estimates, the average CPT for TV is £6, just under YouTube’s £10, yet other online video has an average CPT of £77. Hill urges advertisers to “remember the value that is offered by TV instead of focusing solely on the fact the price changes because of supply and demand”.

Industry heavyweight Brian Weiser, the global president of business intelligence at GroupM, previously raised fears over rising inflation at The Drum’s Predictions event. He says: “In Western Europe and the US, we’re seeing mid-single-digit, even high-single-digit rates of growth in prices. That will probably translate into higher advertising costs. But there’s always a risk it could mess up the economy if interest rates rise too fast to attempt to curtail inflation.”

Elsewhere, ITV’s director of client strategy and planning, Kate Waters, agrees that the 16- to 34-year-old demographic is the inflated category causing concern, but says ITV’s recently announced streamer ITVX should help ease inflation in that category.

Future of TV TV Advertising Media Planning and Buying

More from Future of TV

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +