Stations Profiting From Indecision

Apr 27, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Television stations in Indiana and North Carolina may receive an advertising windfall of more than $8 million in campaign spots as the Democratic presidential nomination race drags out longer than expected.
Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Pennsylvania victory last week is reverberating through TV stations in those two states, which hold their primaries May 6.
The prospect of additional ad dollars also is spurring hopes at stations in states with primaries that follow, including Oregon and West Virginia.
“I am surprised any time we are involved,” said Tim Warner, director of sales at WTHR-TV, an NBC affiliate in Indianapolis. “The last time we saw presidential campaign money was [Sen.] Bob Dole in 1992.”
The unexpected rush of campaign cash will bolster station bottom lines in a year whose first two months brought no revenue growth despite election ad spending. The difficult business environment has led to layoffs, including 160 positions at CBS stations last month.
The campaigns of competing Democrats Sen. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama declined to comment on their TV ad spending strategies.
Mr. Warner said campaign cash started pouring in after the Super Tuesday primaries on March 4. Usually the presidential campaigns hold off spending until close to the primary date.
The longer the fight for the nomination between Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton lasts, the better stations will do.
Sen. Clinton’s win in Pennsylvania attracted nearly $10 million in campaign donations, giving her an infusion of cash that can be used for television spots and other campaign expenses.
Mr. Warner said that while both presidential candidates have bought a variety of time periods, the Obama campaign has bought spots that seek to connect with a younger demographic.
Patti Goodnight, national sales manager for Raycom’s WBTV-TV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, N.C., said North Carolina is not usually a state that gets much attention in presidential races.
This year the combination of advertising from the presidential primaries and from state races is forcing the station to rearrange their advertising schedules.
“It is displacing a lot of people,” said Ms. Goodnight.
The campaigns spent about $20 million in Pennsylvania, and media trackers say the remaining states should collect about that much altogether.
Broadcasting and candidate sources indicate that the heaviest advertising in North Carolina and Indiana is taking place in the last two weeks before the primary. Guam holds its primary May 3, West Virginia May 13, Kentucky and Oregon May 20, Puerto Rico June 1 and Montana and South Dakota June 3.
Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, said that as of the middle of last week, the Obama campaign had spent $2.9 million in Indiana, $1.9 million in North Carolina and $150,000 in Oregon. The Clinton campaign had spent $1 million each in Indiana and North Carolina, he said.


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