Donald Trump, as you may have heard, has received a ton of free TV airtime during this precedential presidential race—some $2 billion worth, by one recent estimate. So why does the billionaire even need to bother shelling out for paid ads?
Beyond that bizarre reality, one of the hallmarks of the presidential race between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been the sheer volume of coverage, which makes every previous cycle look genteel by comparison. Forget Peak TV—this year has been Peak Politics, with outlets and programs delivering more reports than ever on the horse race. Beyond the cable news nets and broadcast news divisions, which have beefed up digital and OTT offerings, there are dozens of new venues chewing on the race. And thanks to social media, video of the candidates courses nonstop through the electoral bloodstream.
Now come the parties’ national conventions—the GOP starting July 18 in Cleveland, the Democrats the following week in Philadelphia. Often heavily scripted, snooze-inducing affairs, this year’s editions promise a heavy dose of the unexpected. Even more than the overstuffed winter-spring buffet of primary debates, the conventions carry a sense of must-see spectacle that is already boosting ad revenue and keeping news crews on high alert.
Even after the campaign drums pounded for two years and a Pew study last week showed widespread voter disdain for both candidates, convention ratings are expected to soar. July through October—with the conventions, Olympics and debates likely to set records—should be an advertisement for the potency of good old-fashioned television. In the pages that follow, we break down how the industry is getting ready for the balloon drop.
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