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TVB: Stations Have ‘a Lot of Runway Left’ for Political Coin

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Despite campaignrevenue thus far falling short of rosy forecasts, industry watchers say it’s still too early for broadcasters to fret about the drop in political ad dollars.

“There is still a lot of runway left to go,” says TVB president and CEO Steve Lanzano.

Lanzano says he expects a sizable increase in post-Labor Day political spending, which typically accounts for 75%-80% of the total money everyone from campaigns to PACs put into TV during an election year. Projections calling for that total spend to reach $3.3 to $3.6 billion still stand, although the ultimate figure will likely be on the lower end of that range, he says.

A recent Bloomberg report showed spending on political ads from April to August was down 60% from 2012. Though they have put a brave face on it during earnings calls and other public interactions, broadcast groups are privately angst-ridden about coming up short after initially forecasting a record haul. It doesn’t seem long ago, after all, that established and deep-pocketed Republicans like Jeb Bush had a strong chance at the nomination and Donald Trump’s media-fueled bid seemed beyond a long shot.

A 60% falloff is certainly jarring. But, as Lanzano explains, that 60% equals roughly $200 million, which, while certainly not ideal, is not a devastating loss when you’re talking about the entire broadcast industry. In 2012, the take from April to August accounted for just 10% of political spending that year.

In addition, the statistic does not reflect a range of factors at play, Lanzano says.

Both parties held their presidential nominating conventions in July rather than late August or early September, cutting the primary season—and the ads that come with it—short by nearly a month.

In addition, the Trump campaign didn’t roll out its first television ads until the end of August, when it launched a $10-million push.

That pales in comparison to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which has reserved $80 million of airtime through Election Day, on top of the $70 million it has already spent on TV.

Yet even if the Trump campaign doesn’t rise to that level, his candidacy will affect TV ad buys in other ways, Lanzano says. Congressional candidates who can’t bank on riding Trump’s coattails will likely spend more on their own campaigns, he says. The number of battleground states could grow as well.

“We just have to see how this plays out,” he says. “It’s a crazy year.”