Conventions to Rev Sales

Aug 24, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The national political conventions are opening with some good news for politicians, cable news channels and media companies: Not only could television ratings rise from four years ago for convention coverage, the events will kick off a fall blitz of political advertising that could be massive.
Amid continued strong fundraising by Democrats, major efforts by Republicans to defend the party’s Senate and congressional seats, and controversial ballot propositions, there are predictions that the traditional Labor Day launch of the political campaign will generate the kind of advertising that media companies see only in dream sequences.
“Here they come, and it’s getting nasty,” Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, said after last week’s announcement of the first major advertising effort by a Republican advocacy group. He predicted the amount of advertising could be so massive that campaigns will have to look for secondary locations for their ads, because the prime venue—spots on TV stations—will be unavailable.
Political ad spending already is at stratospheric levels. Four years ago, through Aug. 19, 2004, $427.4 million had been spent on political ads, according to CMAG. Two years later, despite the fact there was no presidential campaign, the spending grew to $592.2 million.
This year, the spending has already exceeded $750 million and could be on track to exceed $1 billion by the time the campaign ends in two months, said Mr. Tracey.
This week, as the Democrats start their convention in Denver, there already are signs that public interest is translating into advertising boosts for the coverage.
Both CNN and MSNBC are reporting increased ad sales from four years ago. Fox News Channel declined to comment. One broadcast network also reported it is receiving more requests for advertising than it did four years ago.
Some of the additional ads come from public-policy groups that focus on an issue such as healthcare. Other ads are either corporate image spots or come from regular advertisers, according to officials of the cable and TV networks.
Broadcasters themselves are using the conventions to promote the digital TV transition, though mostly in signage around the convention halls.
The conventions may pique public interest in a race that’s already the most closely watched in several cycles.
“There has really been an unexpected and enormous amount of interest the whole year,” said David Bohrman, executive producer of CNN’s political coverage.
“At the beginning of the year, my pet theory was the country was paying attention because it was trying to determine who it was going to vote for on Super Tuesday. But with no resolution … it has become like must-see television … like a sporting event, and people have gotten hooked,” Mr. Bohrman added.
Four years ago, the Republican National Convention took place weeks after the Democratic event. This time there are just four days separating the two. Mr. Bohrman said he’s seen no sign that people will get bored.
Officials at other networks also said convention viewership is likely to grow based on the increasing attention being paid to politics this year.
TV stations in the convention cities of Denver and in Minneapolis-St. Paul are also getting more advertising, though a Denver station manager said it’s unclear whether the ad increases reflect the battle for state voters or piqued interest in the convention itself.
Either way, the conventions are prompting TV stations in Denver and in Minneapolis-St. Paul to step up their news coverage and programming.
Patti Dennis, VP-news director at KUSA-TV, the NBC station in Denver, as well as KTVD-TV, the MyNetworkTV affiliate, said she has been planning convention coverage for a year and will air additional programming each day on one or both channels.
She’s also doing a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. block on the Web. The on-air programming includes special editions of KUSA’s “Your Show,” a program in which viewers can question public officials, and a nightly wrap-up of the convention.
The station also is working with “Extra TV” and the local Metromix Web site to get extra coverage of celebrity events.
KNCT-TV, Denver’s CBS station, also is expanding its normal newscasts and will air some programming on KBDI-TV.

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