TV Election-Ad Spend Could Hit $4.4B in '16

Kantar Media is projecting TV ad spending in 2016 (a presidential-election year) will hit $4.4 billion, though the report notes there are many variables yet to play out, such as how long the Republican primaries string along in contested fashion and how much financial support outside groups will pour into the Hillary Clinton campaign on the Democrat side. That figure would be about a 15% an increase from the reported $3.8 billion spent on TV ads in the 2012 campaign.

Elizabeth Wilner of Kantar said in a post for The Cook Political Report that Kantar's Campaign Media Analysis Group analysis does assume there will be a $500 million bump in presidential-campaign spending just because this is the first presidential race since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision paved the way for more possible spending by outside groups.

"We could see less than $4.4 billion on TV if the GOP primary drags on, or more than $4.4 billion if it wraps up fast," Wilner reported. "We could see less than $4.4 billion if Democratic billionaires don’t bring their A-game for Clinton, or more than $4.4 billion if they do. We also could see more than $4.4 billion if California produces a juicy slate of ballot initiatives. Overall, we see slightly more upside than downside in this early estimate of 2016 political TV ad spend."

If a Republican candidate emerges from the primaries relatively quickly, it could lead to more spending in groups of 10 states or more at a time, rather than if several candidates are only spending in a few states at a time while the primaries are competitive, the Kantar analysis said

The Kantar estimate projects $3.3 billion of the political-ad buys to go to local broadcast TV stations and about $800 million (or 20%) going to local cable ads. Kantar said cable ad sellers are predicting they will get a 30% share but that Kantar's information from several large media shops was that cable would get 18%-24%.

National broadcast ads could pull in about $300 million, Kantar said. The Obama campaign effectively played national networks and local stations against each other, which led to more national-ad spending, and the same could be true for campaigns in 2016. 

Photo: Hillary Clinton at an April 2015 campaign visit to Jones Street Java House in Le Claire, Iowa, via Wikimedia Commons.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.