Cable Firm Buys CNN Ad Minutes Ahead Of Elections

NCC Media Adds October-November Inventory To Serve Political Campaigns
Greg_Schaefer NCC President  CEO crop.jpg

NCC Media, the ad-rep firm owned by three big cable operators, said it has purchased extra advertising time on CNN in October and early November that can be re-sold to political campaigns for local commercials leading up to the November elections.

Greg Schaefer (pictured), CEO at NCC Media, said NCC has added inventory beyond the typical 2 or 3 minutes per hour of commercial time that cable, satellite or telco-TV operators can insert on a given network. NCC approached national news networks, in particular, because they are of interest to political campaigns, and reached a deal with Time Warner Inc.-owned CNN for time between Oct. 6 and Election Day on Nov. 4, Schaefer said.

Forecasting firm Borrell Associates has estimated political-ad spending will hit $8.3 billion this year, with half of that amount being spent in August, September and October. Cable networks' share of that spend is expected to rise to about $719 million, or 8.7%, up from 6.9% four years ago, said, citing Borrell figures.

“Our political share has grown tremendously versus broadcast since the last cycle,” Schaefer said. “There’s more demand on cable than ever. And most of the political marketplace likes to buy individual zones because [campaigns are] very specific about who they’re geo-targeting to. That’s why we’re the best source for that instead of buying a market-wide thing. If you’re trying to win an election in New York City, you don’t need to reach people living in Westchester [County] watching TV on a broadcast station.”

A zone is equivalent to one or two Zip codes, he said, and about 2,600 zones cover the country.

He said NCC Media (owned by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications) did an ad-buy with ESPN in 2012 that was “a pilot program” for securing cable-network ad inventory to capitalize on the political-campaign opportunity. This time, he said, the ad-rep firm sought a specific window that political campaigns could use to run commercials in the four weeks before the election.

The ad schedule is balanced among different dayparts, on weekdays and weekends, he said. “They're making these breaks for us so we can use them on a market-by-market basis.” He didn't specify how many ad minutes were part of the deal.

In markets where political campaigns aren’t so active during this election cycle, NCC owners and affiliates can use the inventory for other advertisers.

Schaefer said NCC owners and affiliates were told about the deal shortly after Labor Day, and he wanted to get news of the arrangement out to other cable networks that might be interested in making similar arrangements involving ad time. Not necessarily during election season, but maybe at a time where, for example, car dealers are especially motivated to buy local ads.

“We’ve never had enough inventory to satisfy the demand for cable advertisers,” he said.