Election News Draws Sponsors

MSNBC, CNN register big upfront sales for 2012 trail

RELATED: Cable Campaigns For Candidate Cash
The New Technology Of Campaign Coverage
Next Generation Coverage Arrives in Time for 2012
Getting Graphic Results

The voting is still 13 months away, but one winner has
already emerged from the 2012 election season -- cable news.
With loosened campaign laws allowing candidates and
Political Action Committess to raise more money than ever before, the rising tide of money is already being felt on TV, especially
at channels where politics is a big part of the

The early money is coming from corporate sponsors
that think election coverage is a good environment for
their marketing messages. The networks are also beginning
to see spending from issues advertisers and may end
up seeing campaign spending from national candidates.

MSNBC says its revenue in the upfront was 50% higher
than during the 2010-11 upfront. And before the fourthquarter
scatter market had officially started, the network
had already written more fourth-quarter scatter business
than it did all of last year, says David Barrington, VP of
ad sales for MSNBC.

"To grow revenue by 50% will give you an indication
as to the recognition among clients, planners and buyers
that this is going to be the second most historic election
in our country's history," Barrington says. "There are a
lot of interesting debates to be had, a lot of interesting
discussions to be had, and this is content you want to
be around."

Barrington notes that ratings are up signi! cantly from
where they were at the beginning of the last presidential
election cycle. And millions of viewers are already tuning
into special events, such as the recent Republican
candidate debates.

Greg D'Alba, COO of CNN ad sales, says he's expecting
a bigger bump in ad revenue than the network experienced
in the previous presidential election cycle. The
network also saw so much demand that it wrapped up
its upfront before the general market got done, generating
record revenue.

"Who would have thought that four years later it
could be even more exciting than 2008, and that's kind
of where we're heading," D'Alba says.

Fox News Channel declined to comment.

D'Alba says CNN has already sold six major election
packages. He declined to name the sponsors, but
said they're in the automotive, technology and energy

CNN's campaign packages include debates, conventions,
town halls, primary results and election
night, and are worth millions of dollars. "Our
sponsorships are integrated," D'Alba says. "They're buying TV, they're buying digital,
they're buying mobile."

During the upfront, MSNBC also sold a number
of campaign sponsorships, some at a gold
level, some at a silver level. "The crux of what's
encapsulated in the packages is a unique and
custom billboard sponsorship that only the
election sponsors will have, so they'll really
stand out," Barrington says.

The sponsorships include programming
ranging from MSNBC's Morning Joe to the network's
primetime hosted shows and events
such as debates and primaries, all leading up
to NBC's broadcast coverage on Nov. 6, 2012,
from Election Plaza at 30 Rock.

Barrington says the network didn't see a lot of
ad dollars from the candidates
themselves in 2008,
although it did during
one of the recent debates.
It is expecting to do more
business from PACs with
issue ads.

"There are a lot of issue
ads, advocacy ads around
the issues that are being
spoken of day in and
day out that are spending significant sums, and we fully
anticipate that going forward [that] will do nothing but
ramp up," he says.

CNN is also starting to see an uptick in advocacy advertising,
and D'Alba anticipates the healthcare and energy
categories will be big players in that arena.

He also expects candidates to try to piggyback on
CNN's content as it moves via social media and asserts
CNN has an advantage there because it reaches more
undecided viewers.

"In 2008, you saw more candidate advertising going to
a national platform than ever before," D'Alba says. "I'm anticipating
we're going to see that progression in 2012."

E-mail comments to jlafayette@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette