9 MAR 2022

UK TV advertising market reached £1 billion in 2021

The number represents a record level of investment in TV advertising, and an increase of 24% from 2020 (and 11% up on pre-pandemic 2019), The previous high of £5.28 billion was in 2016.


TV advertising investment in the UK increased by over £1 billion in 2021 to reach a total of £5.46 billion, an increase of 24% in 2020 (and 11% up on pre-pandemic 2019), according to Thinkbox. This represents a record level of investment in TV advertising. The previous high of £5.28 billion was in 2016. Based on figures provided by the UK’s commercial broadcasters, the total includes all investments in all forms of TV advertising, linear and on-demand. 

According to data from Nielsen Ad Intel, all major advertising categories increased their TV investment in 2021. Still, the most significant increase came from ‘online-born businesses’ – businesses that began online, with no prior bricks and mortar presence. This trend was driven by a pandemic-led boom in e-commerce coupled with TV’s ability to drive rapid growth in web traffic and long-term brand fame.

Nielsen, which measures linear TV advertising spend, reported that these businesses invested £1.12 billion in TV advertising in 2021, an additional £335 million compared with 2020, up 42%. They represented 20% of all linear TV advertising spend. Within the world of online-born businesses, the largest-growing sub-category in 2021 was Food Delivery / Food Subscription, with TV advertising spending up to £58 million year-on-year. This was followed by Online Marketplaces (up £35 million) and Finance (up £31 million). Please see the table at the end of this press release for more detail.

Nielsen Ad Intel reported that, in 2021, 1,286 advertisers used TV for the first time or returned after 5+ years away. This follows from 1,243 new TV advertisers in 2020. Between 2015 and 2019, the average number of new-to-TV advertisers was 841. The dramatic increase in the last two years (up 50%) demonstrates the increasing appeal of TV advertising to businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Verisure, the alarm system company, was the biggest new-to-TV advertiser, investing £10.9 million in 2021, according to Nielsen. Other notable new-to-TV advertisers include Boomin (online property search), which invested £8.4 million in TV; DeLonghi (home appliances), which spent £3.2 million; and Mowi (seafood), which spent £2.5 million.

In 2021, TV advertising was fortunate to benefit from the continued pandemic-induced constraints on some other forms of advertising, notably out-of-home and cinema, where 2021 spend levels remained below 2019. In 2021, according to Advertising Association/WARC figures, cinema advertising investment was up 70% year-on-year but remained down 69% compared with 2019. Out of home advertising was up 25% year-on-year in 2021 but down 33% in 2019. 

“From start-ups to stalwarts, we’ve seen a remarkable surge in confidence in the effectiveness of TV advertising. TV came back stronger in 2021 than anyone predicted – surpassing pre-pandemic investment levels – and many factors are driving its return to growth. Yes, the short-term bounce back from the pandemic, its revitalization by new advertisers, established advertisers re-evaluating TV, and advanced advertising solutions make it an attractive investment for a wider range of businesses. And we should acknowledge that the huge increase in advertiser demand last year, coupled with a return to pre-pandemic viewing patterns, meant that TV’s price increased. This will also have contributed to its growth. Nonetheless, TV advertising remains of incredible value. And what TV continues to offer advertisers is unrivaled: huge numbers watching on a big screen with the sound on in high quality, brand-safe, fraud-free environment,” Lindsey Clay, CEO at Thinkbox, said.