Led by cable and syndicated channels, US advertising revenue grew in the first quarter of 2011 to total $32.5 billion. However, the growth clocked in at a slower rate than previous quarters.

In all, revenue grew 4.4% in the first quarter, according to a report from Kantar Media. That's down notably from the 7% growth in Q4 2010, 8.7% in Q3 2010 and 5.1% for the second quarter of last year.

Cable however saw a full 31.9% growth, largely thanks to the NCAA college football bowl game consolidation on ESPN rather than network TV, and coverage of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on Turner Broadcasting.

Syndication television benefitted from a higher ad spend in the consumer packaged-goods segment, leading to a healthy 16.5% rise. Network TV ad spending fell 10.4%, however, since there were no Winter Olympics or significant amounts of political advertising.

In general, Kantar encourages the industry to keep the slower growth in perspective.

"Despite slowing growth, there are positive signs," said Jon Swallen, senior vice president of research for Kantar. "The market expanded by $1.4 billion during the first quarter, which nearly equals the amount of gain at the start of 2010 when the recovery began. In addition, a rising proportion of advertisers are increasing their ad budgets and this indicates spending growth is still rippling outward through the market."