Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker tracks political ad spending more closely than anyone on Wall Street, so I was pleased to see her weigh in this morning on what’s ahead for 2014. She agrees with the consensus view that spending will be down vs 2012, which included the presidential race, but up from 2010, the last mid-term election campaign. Her take: Fundraisers will collect about $6B (-7% vs 2012) with $4.8B (-7%) going to ads including $3B (-11%) for television. Within the medium, local TV stations will see $2.4B (-14%), with cable collecting $480M (+3%), and national networks winning $96M (-8%). Ryvicker’s estimate for local TV is a little lower than Moody’s forecast this week for as much as $2.6B, but she says that her prediction is “likely conservative.” She expects about $1.5B to be spent on public policy and issue ads, up from $1B in 2010. That will be “the big positive swing factor here, especially since this is the second full election cycle post the significant Citizens United case,” the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision that took limits off the amounts that corporations and unions can spend to support or oppose candidates. She expects lots of spending on ballot measures involving economic reforms, same-sex marriage, and marijuana legalization. But about a third of the issue spending likely will be used to debate the Affordable Care Act, likely to be an issue in at least 15 states. Opponents of Obamacare have so far spent five times as much as supporters. Total spending on ACA-related ads could go as high as $1B: Insurers may spend an additional $500M, but it would be seen as healthcare advertising, not issue advertising. Total campaign spending also depends on how individual campaigns shape up. She notes that “it is still early in the year and ‘hot’ races can pop up at any time.” For now she sees 36 gubernatorial elections (10 considered hotly contested), 35 Senate races (eight deemed hot) — with retirements resulting in special elections in Florida, Hawaii, and South Carolina– and campaigns for all 435 House seats (52 hot). All told, Nexstar, Sinclair, E.W. Scripps and the major network owners — Disney, Fox, Comcast, and CBS — have stations best positioned to benefit from spending on contested seats.
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