Political operatives worry about how to play Florida’s new, early Jan. 29 presidential primary date. For Florida TV station owners, the worry may be finding enough wheelbarrows to haul off the windfall in an off year.
» Presidential campaigns in the 2004 primary spent $3.5 million on local TV spots in Florida and $119.8 million in the general election. That compares with the $4.3 million in the primary in 2000 and $25.4 million in the 2000 general election, according to Evan Tracey of TNS Media Intelligence/ CMAG, a political advertising tracking and analysis firm.
The rise in Florida’s importance as a swing state with a rich number of delegates for the conventions and votes in the Electoral College has led to increased cyclicality in the revenue of its TV stations. The fact that the Olympic Games coincide with general election years also pushes the cyclicality. With next year’s presidential contest the most wide open in years, candidates are expected to fork over gobs of money, perhaps as early as just after Labor Day of this year.
“The year has been kind of slow for a lot of TV stations,” says Wayne Simons, vice president and general manager at WINK-TV in Fort Myers, a CBS affiliate owned by Fort Myers Broadcasting Co. “I think revenue in the fourth quarter would be welcome.”
Political ad spending on TV in Simons’ market in the 2004 presidential year hit $11.5 million — “a huge amount of dollars you don’t get in the off years” — followed by $9.2 million in the 2006 election year.
Station managers report campaigns already are inquiring about rates and availability.
How much of a 2007 windfall stations will see depends on how candidates time their purchases. It also depends on whether a station carries a lot of local news to begin with. Those stations get more of the advertising.
The other variable is the reaction of existing commercial advertisers. Stations want to keep them happy and keep them from trying new marketing avenues instead of being squeezed out by candidate ads.
“Obviously we’re all pleased to make more money, but you have some challenges in managing it and keeping regular advertisers happy with it,” says Diana Wilkin, vice president and general manager, WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach, a Freedom Communications-owned CBS affiliate.