$3.3 BILLION HEADING TO BROADCAST TV
It is still very early to predict how many hot Senate and House races there will be next year and just how much more will be spent on a Presidential race with no incumbent, but Elizabeth Wilner of Kantar’s CMAG is out with the early forecast of 2016 election spending on TV. At this point, Wilner says in her latest column for The Cook Political Report, CMAG’s estimate is total political spending of $4.4 billion across broadcast and cable TV.
You might think that the longer the Republican presidential primaries go on without deciding a nominee, the better for television—more candidates with more money to spend. But that’s not necessarily so, says Wilner. Comments from E.W. Scripps VP of sales Michael O’Brien explain that the longer the Republican primary lasts, the longer candidates and their supporting groups are advertising in just one or a few states at a time as opposed to 10 or more states every day. TV needs engagement by the GOP and Democratic nominees-designate early on to sell inventory in general election swing states in Q2 when viewership is high. “If Republican candidates run out the primary until June, we have lost the opportunity to max out revenue” for the quarter, O’Brien says. The absence of Q2 presidential general election advertising could affect the overall total by as much as $100 million or more.
To get to the $4.4 billion estimate, Wilner and her team use methodology developed for CMAG by the University of San Francisco’s Ken Goldstein. The methodology accounts for a range of factors including the number and location of likely competitive congressional races; the number and location of presidential battleground states; the total amount of money likely to be raised and spent in all races, including for governor; the proportion of total spending likely to go to TV; and how that TV ad spending is likely to be split between local and national, broadcast and cable. CMAG figures the first open presidential contest since the Citizens United court ruling could add $500 million to spending—even more if Democratic billionaires turn out to support Hillary Clinton, who is seen as the party’s likely nominee.
“We could see less than $4.4 billion on TV if the GOP primary drags on, or more than $4.4 billion if it wraps up fast. We could see less than $4.4 billion if Democratic billionaires don’t bring their A-game for Clinton, or more than $4.4 billion if they do. We also could see more than $4.4 billion if California produces a juicy slate of ballot initiatives. Overall, we see slightly more upside than downside in this early estimate of 2016 political TV ad spend,” Wilner wrote.
Of that $4.4 billion, she sees $3.3 billion going to local broadcast TV. CMAG is assuming $800 million in local cable TV ad spending for a share of 20% of all local buys. Wilner says local cable industry reps themselves are projecting 30%; but CMAG’s survey of several heads of large media-buying shops yielded estimates of 18-24%. “Despite the size of the battleground seemingly arguing for local buying, we expect to see more national [broadcast] network and cable advertising this time around,” Wilner says, putting the figure at around $300 million.