Local TV

Romney Gains Spell Loss For New Hampshire Stations

Local ad money is disappointing as front-runner comes home for primary 1/09/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Mitt Romney’s local
ties to New Hampshire
and his robust ad buys
there four years ago have effectively
turned the nation’s first primary on
Jan. 10 into a battle for second place.
Romney, Rep. Ron Paul, and a super
PAC supporting Jon Huntsman are
advertising on television in the state,
but spending levels are nowhere near
what they were four years ago—and
are well short of what station executives
in the region were banking on.

WMUR Manchester was hoping
to get half of the political cash spent
in advance of the 2008 event, when
both parties held primaries. The ABC
affiliate is coming up around 40% shy
of that goal. “It’s far lower than anticipated,”
says Jeff Bartlett, WMUR president/
general manager. “Romney is so
far ahead that most of the candidates,
if they had money to spend, are reluctant to spend it here.”

While Rick Santorum’s virtual tie with Romney in last
week’s Iowa caucuses gave his campaign a huge shot of
energy, there was not enough time to raise enough funds
for a TV presence in the Granite State. “Maybe he’ll be
on in South Carolina,” Bartlett says of Santorum. “I don’t
believe there’s enough time for New Hampshire.”

Manchester is part of the Boston DMA. New Hampshire-
licensed stations include WMUR and independent
WBIN (formerly MyNetworkTV affiliate WZMY), which
debuted a 10 p.m. newscast last fall. GM Gerry McGavick
says Romney and Paul are buying time in news, as well
as on syndicated shows such as 30 Rock and The Office.

Station execs in Boston proper privately say the primary
in neighboring New Hampshire did little for their revenue
picture, with the race for Senator Scott Brown’s seat—and
perhaps the one for Rep. Barney Frank’s
to-be-vacated post—much hotter topics
in DMA No. 8. Huntsman’s camp
bought time in Boston last month, but
not much. “It’s been a disappointment,
to say the least,” says one station boss.

New Hampshire is essentially a home
game for Romney, the former Massachusetts
governor who resides outside
Cambridge and keeps a vacation home
in New Hampshire. Sen. John McCain,
who thwarted Romney for the 2008
crown in New Hampshire, endorsed
Romney last week in Manchester.

Reinforcing the power of a TV buy,
Bartlett says Romney continues to ride
on the wave of his big television expenditures
four years ago. “He spent
a ton of money; he’s still enjoying the
bene! ts of that,” says Bartlett.

While all the Boston stations, as well
as cable channel NECN, will doggedly
cover the primary, it’s essentially the Super Bowl for the
New Hampshire stations. It’ll be a major test for WBIN’s
nascent newsroom. “We’ll certainly participate as much
as we can with a new news operation,” says McGavick.

WMUR, which cohosted a Jan. 7 debate with ABC,
airs an hour-long special at 10 p.m. on Jan. 9 and will
be all hands on deck Jan. 10. “We’ll go from 8 p.m.
until it’s over,” Bartlett says.