Political TV advertising ahead of this fall’s mid-term elections is starting to kick into gear, with local TV stations on track to take in revenue of $2.4 billion, up 14% from $2.1 billion in the 2014 mid-terms.
Nevada, Arizona and Florida are all surging, with gains also noted in Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota.
The figures from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group were reported by TVNewsCheck and confirmed by Deadline.
As President Donald Trump weathers one crisis after another, the mid-terms are widely seen as the most important elections in generations. All 435 House seats are being contested, as well as 35 Senate and 36 state governor races. Many are considered toss-ups by pollsters, which is driving TV spending.
Of course, connecting with voters is not the same process as it was in decades past, when a blitz of TV ads was all that mattered. Today, sophisticated (some might even say manipulative) social media strategies and other digitally enhanced targeting efforts must complement TV buys. As a recent report from C3 Metrics put it, “TV advertising is just 1/4 of the answer for the mid-terms. In this multi-channel world, it’s the combination of factors that affect outcomes.”
That said, the campaign cash flooding local TV stations is coming at a pivotal moment in the sector. It has just seen a game-changing merger crumble, with Sinclair Broadcast Group walking away from Tribune Media after the FCC turned on the $3.9 billion deal. Tribune is expected to still be in play, either as a whole or in parts, with Nexstar (the No. 2 group after Sinclair) and private-equity firms seen as likely suitors.
Especially given its strategy after Disney acquires most of its assets in early 2019, 21st Century Fox is also likely a buyer. Its revenue-rich portfolio of stations will be a cornerstone of the post-merger company, along with Fox News, FS1 and the Fox broadcast network. Fox had made a bid for Tribune, with Blackstone as a finance partner, but Sinclair prevailed (until it didn’t).
One stimulus likely coming to the M&A-driven station marketplace is the FCC’s expected easing of the 39% ownership cap. That will allow a single company to control more stations — a nightmare for the forces opposed to consolidation but a singular business opportunity for a select few with the resources to expand their scope.