TV Stations' Political Ad Revenue Goals: Now Playing Catch-Up

TV stations' crucial political advertising revenues aren't up to par this year -- in part due to Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump's reluctance, so far, to make any media buys.

All that is changing for the Trump campaign -- which will be spending some $4 million on TV in key markets. But given the absence of those dollars in previous months, many are concerned overall political advertising revenue will hurt major TV station groups this cycle.

TV stations had been expected to reap record political advertising revenue this year -- around $4 billion -- with overall local TV advertising hitting $21.9 billion. But many say this early estimate included traditional and usual TV media buys made by both presidential candidates.

Steve Lanzano, president of the Television Bureau of Advertising, told Bloomberg: “Certainly, it’s not what was expected. But you’re going to see the money coming in. It’ll just come in later.”



Some local TV markets are saying political advertising is currently down 60% from the same time periods four years ago. That’s a lot of making up to do.

Key Senate races around the country will be eyed carefully to see if big local races can make up some ground -- fueling new advertising from candidates. One Sinclair Broadcast Group executive believes that late-third-quarter/early-fourth-quarter advertising will see strong benefits.

In part, Trump’s sagging polls may have given hope to key markets -- that Trump’s troubles will spill over into local races, giving Democratic candidates extra reason to raise and place TV advertising money.

The key word in that last sentence is place.

TV stations have to accommodate all political marketers, per federal rules concerning TV advertising -- but only up to a point.

If previous political candidates have already secured the best time placement on TV stations, it might mean political marketers that have sat on the sidelines may need to go elsewhere -- to local cable or perhaps to digital media/social media platforms.

All this gets even more complicated for TV stations by having to make even later moves -- moving around regular core, nonpolitical local TV advertisers.

Given this backdrop, a few major TV stations groups have seen some stock market declines of late. On June 8, Sinclair’s stock was $32.37; on Thursday August 18 it closed at $28.87. Tegna was at $23.29 on July 1; and $21.30 on August 18.

One of the better performers, Nexstar Broadcasting Group, has seen mediocre stock price results- - $53.35 on June 8, and $53.71 on Thursday.

Indications from investors may not tell a clear local TV advertising story. Still, if you aren’t seeing much political messaging currently on your local TV screen, assume nervousness of TV executives off-screen. Playing catch-up isn’t what they voted for.

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