Local TV Stations are Cashing In on the 2016 Election

Television Test PatternWhy are so many TV stations expanding their local news programming when there’s not that much news to report? To capture more political advertising money.


Bloomberg reports that local TV stations are cashing in on the incredible amounts of money being spent this year on television ads, and more local programming means more ad time they can sell. For instance, one Cleveland TV station pulled in more than $30 million from political ads in 2012, and they’re looking to book more this year.

Local newscasts across the nation have already reaped an estimated $279 million in revenue from political ads since Jan. 1, or about 40 percent of the money spent on ads across broadcast and national cable television, according to Kantar Media, which tracks ad spending through its Campaign Media Analysis Group. “People who watch local news are more likely to vote in the same way that if I watch sports on TV I’m more likely to buy a ticket,” says Will Feltus, senior vice president at National Media, a Republican ad-buying firm. Saturation coverage has another benefit, he says: “Campaigns are never going to complain about having too many spots on the local news because they want to see themselves. All of the donors to the campaign, the candidate’s family and friends, and the people around the campaign all watch the local news.”


The increase comes as local news viewership is falling. Since 2007 the average audience for late-night local news fell 22 percent, according to a June report from the Pew Research Center. Viewership in the morning and early evening decreased by 2 percent from 2014 to 2015, while viewership of early-morning newscasts has increased by the same amount.

There is speculation that Utah could become a “battleground state” this year, as polls show a tight race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. If that pans out, expect lots of political ads on TV ahead of the election. 

The advertising deluge has already started in Utah. Mia Love’s campaign has purchased $1 million in political advertising for her re-election bid while a pro-Democratic PAC has reserved nearly $400,000 in time in the fall.