TV broadcasters enjoy spoils of political wars
NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES ONE winner in 2012’s political races already has been decided: local television stations.
Spending on TV advertising likely will mount to historic levels as candidates again blanket airwaves with commercials pitching their virtues or bashing their opponents.
The hard-fought, and expensive, battles will provide a welcome windfall for TV stations, particularly in the most tightly contested states that will decide if President Barack Obama wins re-election or loses to his yet-to-be-decided Republican opponent.
Forecasters are calling for spending on political advertisements to increase up to 30 percent this year compared with 2008, setting a new record and reflecting, in part, a response to the landmark “Citizens United” 2010 Supreme Court ruling, which ended most restrictions on donations by corporations and unions. This is the first presidential election since the ruling.
The decision fostered the creation of Super PACs, fundraising committees that can spend money to support a candidate but cannot officially coordinate with campaigns.
Republican Mitt Romney’s Super PAC, Restore Our Future, has raised at least $12.2 million, while Obama’s Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, has raised at least $3.2 million, according to OpenSecrets.org, a website associated with the no-partisan group Center for Responsive Politics.
Around 85 percent of the money that is raised and spent on advertising historically goes towards local broadcast TV. In 2012, that could total between $2.5 billion to $3.0 billion, said Ken Goldstein, president of Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
“Television advertising remains a message weapon of choice to most campaigns,” Goldstein said. “Every year is a record.” Spending in 2012 should easily beat the mark of $2.4 billion in the 2010 mid-term elections, the first to include Super Pac money and a cycle that featured no presidential race on the ballot but saw gubernatorial and Senate contests in big, expensive states such as California, Texas and New York.
By comparison, about $2.1 billion was spent on local broadcast TV commercials in 2008 — before the creation of the new rules governing Super Pacs.
That will undoubtedly boost the fortunes of companies that operate and own local TV stations.
Those dozen or so companies with stations in the battleground states of the Midwest should benefit most as political money floods in, but among that group the biggest winners are difficult to predict since much will depend on how the campaign unfolds district-by-district.
Among the potential beneficiaries is CBS Corp, which owns stations in Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.