Sydney – Advertisers spent almost $300 million less on free-to-air television advertising in the year to June than they did in 2007-08, according to industry revenue figures released last week. Last financial year, revenue declined 7.8 percent to $3.504 billion, down from $3.802 billion the previous year. The bulk of that decline was felt in the six months to June, when advertising fell 11.8per cent – and the market contracted $206 million – to $1.547 billion. The fall was even steeper in metropolitan markets, where revenues dropped 12.6 percent to $1.171 billion in the June half (down from $1.341 billion), and dropped 8.7 percent over the full year. Advertising in regional markets fared better but was still well into negative territory, falling 8.9 percent in the six months to June and 4.9 percent over the year. The market declined in every city, region and state, but the Sydney TV market recorded the sharpest drop, falling 14.8 per cent to $427 million in the six months to June, down from $501 million for the same period the previous year. Media buyers said the overall decline was not as severe as expected but it would take a massive recovery to see television networks return to previous levels of profitability given the expected launch of new free-to-air digital and pay-TV channels this year. Buyers had been expecting declines of anywhere from 12 to 15percent for the June half before the release of the official revenue figures, which are compiled for Free TV Australia and audited by KPMG. On a network-by-network basis, across all five capital city markets, only the Nine Network increased its share in the six months to June, to 33.16 percent from 31.78 percent for the same period last year, though this is well short of Nine chief executive David Gyngell’s 35 percent stated share goal. Nine’s prime-time audience for the first half of this year in the key advertiser demographic of 25-54 was 33.2 percent, down from 35 percent last year. Seven’s revenue share fell from 39.13 percent to 38.50 per cent but still represented a significant premium on its all-people audience share of 36 percent for the half, and 33.7 percent for the 25-54 age range. Network Ten’s revenue share slid from 29.09 percent to 28.32 percent despite the launch of its digital HD channel One in March and the success of its new reality cooking show, MasterChef, the finale of which broke viewing records.