Political pros took a keen interest in July in markets including Zanesville, Ohio; Sioux City and Davenport, Iowa; Charlottesville, Virginia; and Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. They saw the biggest increase in political ad spending relative to their market size in the month according to a report out this morning from Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker. The prolific analyst tracks political spending closer than just about anyone on Wall Street. She says that campaigns have spent $765.6M on TV so far in 2012 (ending July 29). The vast majority of that — $579.6M — went to local stations, including $120.7M in July. Of the local total so far in 2012, 42.5% was for presidential campaigns, 21.8% for ballot initiatives, 18.6% for Senate races, 7.6% for House contests, 5.0% for gubernatorial races, and 4.4% for other. The top markets measured by dollars spent are Cleveland ($24.8M); Los Angeles ($20.6M); Tampa ($19.4M); Washington, DC ($18.2M); and Las Vegas ($17.2M) — with much of the cash going to outlets owned by Fox, CBS, NBC, Sinclair, and Disney. But Ryvicker notes that these cities typically end up on top because of their size, not because they have the most contentious races. She says it’s more revealing to look at political spending relative to the total ad sales in the market. By that measure, Wausau, Wisc is on top with election ads accounting for 16.9% of total market revenue. It’s followed by La Crosse, Wisc (15.9%); Sioux City, Iowa (15.0%); Zanesville, Ohio (13.7%); Charlottesville, Virg (11.9%); and Great Fall, Mont (11.9%) — especially TV stations owned by Sinclair, Gray Television, and Gannett. Ryvicker predicted earlier this year that total political ad spending in 2012 would be +8% vs 2010 with 56% going to broadcast TV. But she now says the forecast “is conservative, particularly given the significant political revenue beats of all broadcast companies we cover this past Q2 earnings season.”
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