Nothing Is Certain -- Except Death, Taxes AND Yearly Media Inflation

In 1789, Benjamin Franklin famously stated that “Nothing is certain except death and taxes.”  We have known this to be true now for 235 years. On July 1, 1941, the FCC authorized commercial broadcasting in the United States. NBC was the first one to air a 10-second commercial, which netted the broadcaster $7. Since that time, Benjamin Franklin’s quote should be expanded to 'Nothing is certain except death, taxes and yearly media inflation regardless of the economy'.

This point was driven home earlier this week, when MediaPost Editor in Chief Joe Mandese reported that “Even as U.S. consumer price inflation has begun moderating, advertisers and planners and buyers are seeing their costs move in the opposite direction -- especially for TV and ‘print’ media -- according to just-released first quarter media price inflation estimates form ECI Media Management.”

Sure, TV is showing increases from a deflationary starting point: “The erosion of TV ad pricing power has improved from -5.1% in 2023 to -3.1% this year, according to ECI's tracking.”



But as usual, the only way is up, and up more than what inflation would dictate, or what the general economic market would seem to indicate, across all media options available. And yes, 2024 is a year with a few events that typically drive up pricing, such as a general election and the Olympic Summer Games.

I must applaud NBC for expanding the Olympic Universe across all ITS platforms and outlets. It can sometimes be frustrating to figure out where a particular sport is shown live, but it is also true that every minute of Olympic activity is covered somewhere. You don’t have to miss any of it. And NBC has also diversified its pricing menu for advertisers and sponsors to reflect the new Olympic universe. That’s one of the drivers behind price inflation for sure, but it is somewhat justified, since you can decide, as an advertiser, if you want to be included in any of it, some of it or all of it.

It seems that politicians have decided that TV is the medium to own to reach voters. I live on a blue island in a red sea in North Carolina, which is why the state is designated as “purple” and in the crosshairs of many PACs and other political operatives. It is now decidedly a swing state.

So, as we approach Super Tuesday, every ad break on every local TV channel is literally back-to-back political ads from the Republican candidates proclaiming their loyalty to candidate Trump’s policies with promises of closed borders, deporting immigrants, banning sanctuary cities (there are none in North Carolina), supporting the police and fighting Joe Biden’s liberals. I have yet to see a TV ad for a Democratic candidate (but I know they are hyperactive and hyper-targeted in digital media).

The Republican candidates are missing the boat with their TV war. Their target audience is probably much more easily and cost-effectively reached via digital media. That would probably net them less waste and more volume. But it might also be the medium they understand the least (judging by the age of most of the candidates).

That’s certainly another reason for TV price inflation. On the other hand, it keeps our local TV stations, including newsrooms, funded for now. Perhaps that is a small price to pay.

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