Despite the unexpected dearth of political advertising, E.W. Scripps' TV group revenue rose to $197 million in the third quarter of 2016—a 25% year-over-year increase, the company reported Friday.
"This uncommon—if not downright unique—presidential election, combined with key Senate races in Ohio, Florida, Colorado and Wisconsin becoming far less competitive than forecast, leaves us with much less political advertising revenue than we expected,” said Rich Boehne, Scripps chairman, president and CEO.
"Political spending was healthy further down the ticket and across the country, but presidential spending in some typically crucial swing states was roughly half of what we saw four years ago, reducing the opportunity for some Scripps stations,” he said.
Political advertising accounted for $26.9 million of 3Q revenue. Scripps expects the full-year total to be about $100 million.
Scripps was hit particularly hard by the lack of presidential campaign spending, which the group expected to provide 30% of its election year political money, senior VP of broadcast Brian Lawlor said in Scripps’ earnings call.
In addition, the group didn’t get the expected political take in states including Florida and Ohio, where senatorial races expected to be contentious didn’t materialize. PAC money set aside for those races money moved outside Scripps footprint, he said.
Lawlor said a surge in by both candidates as the race tightens shows the continued reach of broadcast TV.
“At the end of the day, they are finding out that you have to spend money to influence voters,” he said. “I’d be a lot more concerned if I saw the opposite."
Additionally, Scripps five top advertising segments were robust in the quarter, he said. Summer Olympics advertising on the group’s five NBC affiliates alone drew $10.3 million.
Core advertising was up 0.4% on a same-station basis. Local was flat at $77.9 million. National was up 2.2% to $35.5 million.
Retransmission revenue was up 46% to $53.1 million. The group is currently negotiating two renewals covering 3 million households, which could fuel a 20% increase in retransmission revenue in 2017, Scripps said.