Forecast Calls for Flood of Dollars

With captivating candidates drawing audiences for all things political, TV networks could see record ad revenue during the Republican and Democratic National conventions.

“The demand has been pretty unprecedented across the board, be it debates or town halls or even interviews with the candidates. The conventions are obviously a big deal,” says Katrina Cukaj, executive VP of portfolio sales and client partnerships at CNN parent Turner Broadcasting.

Cable networks like CNN and Fox News are getting $100,000 for 30-second spots in the convention from advertisers that don’t usually sponsor campaign coverage but are seeking out large audiences. Even in primetime, spots on the cable news nets usually sell for a fraction of that, market sources say.

“We’re about 80% sold” in terms of ad inventory during the convention, Cukaj says. The network has bumped up its audience estimates, its cost-per-thousand viewers to advertisers and consequently it prices per commercial.

At Fox News, new money is coming into the convention telecasts from categories including the movie studios, quick service restaurants, beer and soft drinks, according to a network spokesperson.

Four years ago, convention coverage drew $5.75 million in ad revenue for the broadcast and cable networks, according to Kantar Media. That was down from $7.79 million in 2008, when Barack Obama and Sarah Palin were compelling newcomers on the political scene.

Viewership followed a similar pattern. The final night of the GOP convention in 2012 was watched by 30.3 million viewers, down from 38.9 million in 2008, according to Nielsen. The closing night of the 2012 Democratic convention was seen by 25.9 million people, down from 38.4 million.

CNN has sold a variety of election coverage sponsorship packages at more than $1 million a pop. CNN’s election year sponsors include the American Petroleum Institute, CA Technologies, Novartis, Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the Society for Human Resources Management, Norfolk Southern and Audi.

Audi is also an election sponsor at Fox News.

CNN has also sold packages that focus more on the convention for advertisers looking to capitalize on the big audiences live events can generate.

Cukaj says that most of the advertisers during the DNC will also advertise during the RNC. And while the RNC has had some issues with corporate sponsors, CNN hasn’t had any sponsors back away from the GOP confab. “CNN does a pretty good job of not taking sides, and that works well for me from an advertising standpoint,” she says.

The rest of the campaign season looks like it will be strong as well. Cukaj says she is already talking to movie studios about election night and that she has packages covering the inauguration and the new president’s first 100 days.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.