NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The numbers are indisputable: Advertising is leaving television. It may be fast, it may be slow but it's undeniable: Marketers are moving money out of television and into digital.
Advertising at 21st Century Fox's (FOXA) broadcast network fell 5% in the quarter ended Sept. 30, and Viacom (VIAB) posted the same-sized drop at its cable-networks, which includes BET And Nickelodeon. Ad sales at CBS (CBS) , owner of the most-watched network, were down 1% and Comcast (CMCSA) said advertising at its NBCUniversal's cable-TV unit fell 4.6%.
Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Dividend Stocks
The drop-off in television advertising has been gathering strength throughout 2014. It's a shift that BernsteinResearch media analyst Todd Juenger labels as nothing short of a "structural decline in ad-supported TV audiences."
The decline serves as an ominous backdrop to the ongoing and sometimes nasty dispute between CBS and the Dish Network (DISH) over how much the pay-TV operator should pay the content producer to carry its programming. Its distribution deal with Dish expires on Thursday. If the two sides can't agree on a new contract, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has threatened to take CBS off his satellite-TV network in 14 markets, including Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and Denver, cities where the network owns its local TV station.
In past years, CBS sought higher fees to cover higher production costs. But this year is different. When Moonves projects his company's finances into the future, he knows that if Dish wants a multi-year deal, CBS is going to need sufficient revenue to help compensate for a likely slowdown in advertising.
"Les Moonves wants to charge more for his content to offset whatever pressure he may be feeling on the advertising front," Craig Huber, an independent media analyst based in Greenwich, Conn. said in a phone interview. "The biggest change going on out there this year is the move of television advertising dollars to mobile."
The shift in ad-spending became apparent clear to any remaining doubters in the spring when marketers allocated 6% less money to upfront advertising, the annual purchase of TV space for the fall and winter season. That trend is projected to continue, according to MoffettNathanson, which lowered its forecast for ad spending on network TV to 3.9% for 2014 from a 5% estimate made in May.