The returns are in and show that this year’s elections provided a bigger windfall for TV providers than expected by Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker — who’s followed this stuff closer than just about anybody. Campaigns and interest groups spent $2.8B on local TV, $104M at national networks, and $467M on cable she reports this morning based on information from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. The total TV spending is +23.3% vs. the 2010 elections, and +35.3% vs. the 2008 presidential election year. Television accounted for about 65% of all of this campaign’s political ad spending, which came to $5.19B, +14% from 2010. Ryvicker says that the political outlays for TV were $200M higher than she anticipated.

For local TV stations, 31% of the spending came from presidential campaigns with 22% for ballot measures, 22% for Senate races, 16% for House contests, and 4% for gubernatorial matches. Cities seeing the most political ad dollars were Los Angeles, Washington, DC; and Cleveland. But as a percentage of total market revenues, political ads were most important in Butte, Mont.; Davenport, Iowa; and Great Falls, Mont.