August 24, 2010

Heated midterm political races could spell big advertising revenue gains for broadcasters, according to a new study from SNL Kagan.

The study, Broadcasting Guide to the 2010 Elections, analyzes the footprint of TV and radio station owners in the states where highly competitive races are expected, taking into account the number of stations in exposed markets.

SNL Kagan forecasts TV station political revenues in 2010 have the potential to grow at least 25% above 2006, to $2.5 billion, with political revenues for publicly-traded TV pureplays expected to exceed $300 million. In the 16 states with highly-contested elections, Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. has the largest footprint of all TV pureplays, with 24 full power stations and an estimated 11.1 million TV households. Network O&Os are also expected to generate revenue from political advertising, with CBS and Univision having the most exposure to toss-up states.

Although TV stations will receive the lion's share of ad dollars, SNL Kagan indicates that radio will also benefit as political campaigns tighten TV inventory in the fourth quarter. Radio political ad revenue is expected to reach approximately $560 million.

Among radio pureplays, SNL Kagan’s analysis reveals Cumulus Media Inc. has the largest footprint in toss-up states, with a total of 114 stations. Despite the immense exposure of pureplays to highly competitive races, CBS Corp.'s CBS Radio is likely to receive one of the largest windfalls in political advertising in 2010. The company owns 78 stations in 53 markets; including 50 stations, or 64% of the total, in California, Florida, Illinois and Ohio.

SNL Kagan Analyst Tony Lenoir notes: “In 2010, we expect that the combination of political unrest, high-profile congressional and gubernatorial races, and the Jan. 21 Supreme Court ruling that struck down certain laws restricting corporate and labor contributions to campaigns will lead to a political ad revenue treasure trove for broadcasters.”

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