Just over two months left until election day, and political ad spending is on track to break Montana records. The state’s biggest campaigns are starting to unload their long-stockpiled cash, joining Super PACs already spending on their behalf.
The majority of that spending is funneling into one place–local TV stations.
Political campaigns know with their advertising dollars local TV is king.
“The most powerful, most persuasive medium out there,” said Tim Keating, Director of Political Sales for the state’s largest group of stations, the Montana Television Network. The state’s CBS affiliates are in this network.
“Typically campaigns are targeting people 35 years and older and that’s great for television,” Keating said, adding local TV news stations are likely to attract people vested in the community and therefore are likely voters.
Over at Helena’s Beartooth NBC, General manager Cathy Carrick says candidates and PACS are reserving ad spots early to air later.
“Our buys actually got stronger a month ago,” Carrick said.
For example, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Bullock’s campaign representatives say they have increased ad spending about 20 percent in the last few weeks—all on statewide TV ads. At Beartooth NBC, guaranteeing a 30-second ad will air during the 5:30 news costs $500. Carrick says viewers can expect campaigns to start buying a lot more of those spots in the coming weeks.
“Well, we’re pretty full now, but I think it’s gonna get to the point where it’s probably close to 85% political,” Carrick said, meaning of all the total ads seen. She says she has never seen that type of spending before.
“No, this has been the strongest political year and probably will be the strongest political year in Montana,” Carrick said.
But she says her station is not flush with cash. Carrick says a small market TV station like her’s is actually fortunate if it makes any profit on a normal year.
“When you have a political year where you can actually be in the black for sure, then that’s catch-up time to buy some of the equipment you need to, you know do things that you normally cannot do, and so we’re never flush,” Carrick said.
Using boom times now to save for lean times to come.
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