TV ad spending to set record in presidential race

Wed Jul 2, 2008 11:16am EDT
 
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By Andy Sullivan and Paul Thomasch

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - The 2008 presidential race, which has already drawn a record number of dollars and voters, is poised to shatter another record: the amount of money spent on television advertisements.

As Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain barnstorm across the country before the November election, they will spend heavily on ads that will increasingly reflect the cut-and-thrust of the campaign.

Total spending on TV ads in the presidential race is expected to top $800 million, said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising. Such spending totaled $500 million, the previous record, in the 2004 race.

That's good news for the television business, which is suffering from a pullback in spending from automotive, real estate and financial service advertisers.

Thanks in part to the expected boost from the U.S. election, spending on network and local TV advertisements is expected to rise between 2 percent and 3 percent in 2008 while cable TV advertising is expected to rise 6 percent, according to ZenithOptimedia.

"Every month, every quarter we're setting records," CBS Corp chief financial officer Fred Reynolds said at a recent investor conference. The company, which owns the CBS network and local television stations, billed a record of nearly $30 million in political advertising in the first quarter of 2008, he said.

Other companies expected to benefit from the campaign include General Electric Co's NBC and Walt Disney Co's ABC; broadcasters like Sinclair Broadcast Group, Belo Corp and Hearst-Argyle Television; and media companies such as Gannett Co Inc and Meredith Corp.

Even in the YouTube era, TV advertising is still the best way to reach wide swaths of voters directly, experts say. TV ads also shape news coverage and are frequently replayed, at no charge, during newscasts.   Continued...

 
<p>Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is silhouetted by a television light during a campaign visit to the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 24, 2008. The 2008 presidential race, which has already drawn a record number of dollars and voters, is poised to shatter another record: the amount of money spent on television advertisements. REUTERS/Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun</p>