Super PACs Fuel TV Station Sales in Key States

Sunday, 07 Jul 2013 04:24 PM

By Greg Richter

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Forget the YouTube videos, social media and email campaigns. The old-fashioned TV spot is still alive and well.

In fact, 30-second TV ads are still a highly effective political campaign strategy. Just ask TV station owners in swing states, where the money soon will be flowing once again heading into the 2014 mid-term elections.

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CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves noted as much during last year's presidential campaign, "Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS."

Political ads can account for a third of a station's advertising revenue in an election year, The New York Times reports. Columbus, Ohio's WBNS grossed $50 million in advertising in 2013 with about $20 million coming from political ads.

Columbus is the 32nd largest television market in the country, but the next largest market, Salt Lake City, saw its local KSTU affiliate draw only $29 million in advertising. The stations are roughly equal except for one thing: Ohio is a swing state; Utah was firmly in Republican – and Mormon – candidate Mitt Romney's camp.

Swing state TV stations have become hot properties, with Gannett laying out $1.5 billion for 20 stations in June and the Tribune Company set to shell out $2.7 billion for 19 stations. Even more consolidation is expected, according to analysts.

Political advertising is such a large source of income, CEOs are quick to point it out to shareholders.

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“We get complaints from viewers,” Michael J. Fiorile, CEO of the owner of WBNS, the Dispatch Broadcast Group, told The Times. “The bigger complaints are from regular advertisers who really get pushed off the air.”


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