Contested Caucuses Good For Ad Sales

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Contested races in both parties translated into a six-fold increase in spending on political ads on cable within Mediacom systems in Iowa, as compared to the 2003-04 cycle, a Mediacom ad-sales executive said the day after the caucuses were held in the Hawkeye State.

Steve Litwer, group vice president of ad sales at Mediacom’s OnMedia unit, wouldn’t reveal actual dollar amounts spent on political ads in projecting the six to seven times multiple. But he also estimated Mediacom took in about 8-9% of the overall media spend by candidates in Iowa, an increase over 2003-04 and an indication that “spot” cable ad sales were taking a bigger share of the pie from broadcast TV stations. Cox and Cable One also operate systems in Iowa, but Mediacom is the dominant cabler.

“The environment’s changed” since four years ago, he said Friday. “We’re not in the same world.” In 2003, President Bush was running as an incumbent, unchallenged in the caucuses; John Kerry won the Democratic caucus, while John Edwards placed second.

According to CNN, overall spending on TV political ads in Iowa was close to $40 million this cycle, more than three times the amount spent in 2004. The biggest spenders were Democrats Barack Obama, the U.S. senator from Illinois who spent more than $9 million and won the caucus; Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.), who spent about $7.2 million; and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who spent nearly $7 million, CNN said, citing research from TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the Republican contest.

Litwer said the biggest spenders on spot cable were likely the biggest spenders on TV overall.

In 2003, spending ahead of the caucuses heated up in December, or about a month before the caucuses. In 2007, the first candidate ads started appearing in April or May, Litwer said.

Mediacom executives were quoted several weeks ago as projecting about a four-fold ad revenue increase over the last cycle. Litwer said the difference was a late surge in spending. “They really poured it on toward the end of November [and] December.”

He said NCC, the firm that handles national spot-cable sales, deserved credit for helping to bring in more spot-cable buys with a concerted sales effort among media buyers in Washington, D.C.