Local TV

Cable Campaigns For Candidate Cash

Local stations expect to retain lion’s share of spending 10/03/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

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Local cable is stumping for dollars during
this election cycle.

With an ability to target viewers by geography
and reach voters with interactive advertising,
Comcast Spotlight, the local cable sales arm of the
largest cable operator, expects its share of campaign
spending to rise. TV stations, on the other hand, say
they expect to continue to get the vast majority of
election-year political spending.

Cable’s share of local-TV campaign advertising
has grown steadily since
2004, when cable captured
only 3% of spending,
according to Dan
Sinagoga, VP of political
advertising at Comcast
Spotlight. That share
rose to 15% in 2006 and
17% in 2008. In 2010, he
says cable grabbed a 20%
share.

TargetingVoters.jpgWith forecasts calling
for 2012 campaign
spending to hit as much as $4 billion, Sinagoga expects
cable to capture between a 20% and 25% share.
“We certainly don’t look at taking steps backwards off
that 20%,” he says.

Sinagoga says cable has had to convince campaign
managers that it had something worth buying. For
one thing, more than half of TV viewing happens on
cable these days, and voters don’t only watch the local
news. (Voter groups can be targets by buying certain
channels; see chart.) For another, with cable, you don’t
have to buy an entire market, just the parts that are
in the candidate’s district. In some cases, like one in
Michigan, a single district has homes in the Detroit
DMA, the Lansing DMA and the Grand Rapids DMA.
Buying all three markets would be prohibitively expensive,
he says.

“The name of the political game right now is microtarget,
micro-target, micro-target,” Sinagoga says. “You
can’t do that with anyone else but spot cable.”

Like Republicans and Democrats, broadcasters
tend to look at the market differently
than cable execs.

Jack Poor, VP of marketing insights at the
Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB), figures
that in the last election, stations pulled
in $2.2 billion in campaign ads, with cable
getting about $400 million. “I’ve got them at
about 15% or 16%, and we don’t think that’s
going to change much,” Poor says.

As for geotargeting, Poor says, cable’s zones
don’t necessarily correspond to legislative
districts. “You’ll often find that you’ve got to
buy more than one zone, sometimes as many
as four, to cover a congressional district,” he
says.

Poor says cable gets a portion of its campaign
money after broadcast stations sell out.
“As these campaigns spend more and more
money, and as the spending cycle stays compressed
within a relatively short window, then
the lesser preferred media is going to do better
simply because there’s going to be no room at
the inn further up the food chain,” he says.
“That being said, they’re not doing significantly better than they had been in the past.”

Cable offers interactive opportunities for
candidates. When Meg Whitman ran for governor
in California last year, she used Comcast’s
Request for Information (RFI) product
and got 18,000 leads, of which 10,000 became active
supporters. Comcast is also rolling out telescoping ads
that allow a viewer to go from a short-form spot to a
longer piece of content stored on the cable operators’
video-on-demand system. “We think that’s impactful,”
Sinagoga says.

“That’s hype,” Poor counters. “Talk to any political
campaign about that. If they’re using it, it’s the cherry
on the sundae, but most of them aren’t even using it.

“They’re very, very focused on the basics and executing
the basics well,” he adds. “And that’s buying
air-time, trafficking it and making the changes they
need along the way. The frenzy that these guys are in
really doesn’t allow them to dabble much in video on
demand and interactive and that kind of stuff.”

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

 

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