TVB: Local Stations Took in 80 Percent of Political Spending on TV Ads

NEW YORK -- Local stations took in more than 80 percent of the total spent on political TV ads, the TVB said in a report released today. The organization, which promotes broadcast TV in the advertising community, said local TV’s take went from $2.1 billion in 2010—a non-presidential election year—to $2.9 billion in 2012. However, it said the 2010 figure was 35 percent more than for 2008, when Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in their bid for the White House.

TVB said presidential spending alone grew 65 percent from 2008 to 2012, with local stations raking in $500 million.

Targeting was one of the primary areas of change, the report said. In addition to MRI and Scarborough, Rentrak provided voter-targeted TV viewing research on a market-by-market basis, and by sub-market geographies for both broadcast and cable channels. TVB said cable was purchased by the network while broadcast was bought by program, daypart and genre. Local TV, the organization said, “had the vast majority of target viewer rating points and ad inventory.”

“Although the Obama campaign tilted more toward placements in prime time while Romney strategists favored ads near news programming, when the PAC and party committee ads [were] factored into the equation, the daypart allocations were not dramatically different between the two campaigns,” the report said.

TVB noted 2012 was the first presidential cycle where the PACs played a role. President Obama’s campaign placed 88 percent of his broadcast spots. Priorities USA,Obama’s PAC, and the DNC placed 12 percent of the broadcast spots. The Romney camp’s campaign accounted for less than 40 percent of the broadcast spots and Romney’s PAC accounted for another 12 percent. Other pro-Romney PACs—mostly Crossroads and the RNC—represented 50 percent, or half, of his broadcast media.

TVB’s report said that while Romney forces outspent the Obama team, the latter bought about 10 percent more broadcast spots, much of it in the final 60 days prior to the election under qualification for lowest unit rate, “but much of Romney’s did not.”

“Other important advantages to the Obama campaign’s controlling the lion’s share of the budget were ‘command and control,’” the report said. “With the nine battleground states taking about 90 percent of the presidential spend the issue became when to spend rather than where to spend. Obama’s team acted early and dominated with both TV dollars and units from May through July. When Romney’s forces paused their spending at the end of August around the conventions, the Obama camp turned up the heat and never lost the ad unit lead again.”