TV Was Biggest Winner in Mid-Term Election, Reaping $2.4 Billion in Political Ad Sales

Thursday, November 06, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Republicans weren’t the only big winners in the most recent election cycle. Cable companies and television stations collected enormous sums of money for political advertisements.


TV stations raked in about $2.4 billion from commercials from federal, state and local races, eclipsing the total they enjoyed in 2010 by more than $100 million. As impressive as this year’s haul was, it fell half a billion dollars short of what stations made two years ago when TV operators made $2.9 billion from the 2012 presidential election year races.


“Broadcasters’ ad growth slowed in part because there were fewer close races in the larger markets,” Reuters reported. Four years ago, competitive gubernatorial contests in California and New York, as well as an expensive California Senate race, boosted stations’ profits during that midterm election.


This year, one Iowa television station, WHO-DT in Des Moines, actually added news programming in the afternoon partly so it would have a place to put all the campaign ads, many of which touted the campaign for the open Senate seat won Tuesday by Joni Ernst.


Cable also did quite well in this year’s campaigns. Operators pulled in $800 million from political ad sales, nearly double the $450 million from 2010.


The growth in cable earnings was the product of that industry’s steady improvements in selective marketing and being able to offer campaigns the ability to target voters in specific regions.


“If you’re running for governor in Connecticut, why do you want to buy ads on a New York television station and waste that money on people who can’t vote in your state,” analyst Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson LLC told Reuters.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Cable Wins in Midterm Election, Growth Slower for TV Stations (by Ronald Grover and Lisa Richwine, Reuters)

The Big Winner in 2014 Elections: Corporate Television (by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams)

Interest in Midterms May be Low, but Local TV Awash in Political Ad Spending (by Katerina Eva Matsa, Pew Research Center)

With Political Ads Expected to Hit a Record, News Stations can Hardly Keep Up (by Cecilia Kang and Matea Gold, Washington Post)

A Million TV Ads Fuel Battles for U.S. Senate (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

TV Attack Ads Average One Per Minute…in North Carolina Alone (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

Koch Brothers Responsible for almost 10% of TV Campaign Ads So Far this Year (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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