The winners in the "Campaign '98" midterm
elections included George W. Bush in Texas, Jeb Bush in Florida, Charles Schumer in New
York -- and cable. And, like some politicians, cable is already prepping for
Some cable operators and interconnects were still
tabulating their results last week, but indications are that cable's strong political
year was bolstered by factors including close races, candidates' negative-advertising
charges and countercharges, a tight broadcast-television-station marketplace and various
propositions on the ballot.
The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau has begun surveying
member operators in the top 30 markets to get an estimate for 1998 political ad spending.
Operators that were having slow political years suddenly saw last-minute pre-election
spending upsurges, a CAB spokeswoman said.
Earlier this fall, executives at such MSOs as Cox
Communications Inc. and Tele-Communications Inc. expressed disappointment that political
wasn't as strong as expected -- until the parties blitzed the airwaves during the
final two or three weeks of the campaign.
After having pitched politicos last January, Pat Esser,
Cox's vice president of ad sales, recalled last week, "We were sitting here in
September and wondering if [political] was going to happen."
By early last week, Cox's CableRep Advertising had
tallied $1.4 million in San Diego and nearly as much in Las Vegas, Esser said.
"They were the two hottest markets for us," he
said, adding, "Los Angeles was red-hot, too -- $5 million to $7 million -- but
that'll show up on Adlink's books." Phoenix, another beneficiary of
last-minute politicking, generated $250,000, he added.
Jerry Machovina, executive vice president of ad sales at
TCI's cable unit, TCI Communications Inc., agreed that there was "a pretty mad
rush" toward the end -- one that "probably doubled our political advertising
[revenues] year to year" -- but he wouldn't talk numbers. That strength occurred
across the country, with no particular region standing out, he added.
All told, the entire House of Representatives, one-third of
the Senate and 36 governorships were up for grabs in the off-year elections.
In New York City, Democrat Charles Schumer, who toppled
three-term Sen. Al D'Amato (R-N.Y.), spent heavily on Time Warner Cable, as did an
independent candidate for governor, Tom Golisano. D'Amato and Gov. George Pataki, who
was far ahead in his race the entire way, used cable sparingly.
Larry Fischer, president of Time Warner CityCable, said
1998 "was probably the best year that we've had" in political -- up 25
percent from last year -- which he found surprising, since there were more local races in
D'Amato and Pataki "used cable strategically, to
fill in pockets of strength," Fischer said. For instance, D'Amato bought cable
only in Staten Island.
At Cable Networks Inc. -- where "our big push was on
the regional-news networks, especially News 12" -- senior vice president Deborah
Cuffaro said the rep firm also enjoyed a strong political year, due largely to campaigns
in New York State.
"We billed over $5 million in political. [Of that,]
well over $4 million came into New York," chiefly for D'Amato, Pataki and
That included New York Interconnect business, noted Eglon
Simons, the interconnect's vice president and general manager.
In Illinois -- where the GOP's George Ryan won the
gubernatorial race against Glenn Poshard, and where Peter Fitzgerald beat incumbent Sen.
Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.) -- "we targeted a substantial number of high-profile
races [early in the year]," said Jim Mittal, general sales manager of the Chicago
Cable Interconnect. "And we did business with all of the winners."
Noting, "We had a very good political year," he
said the hardwired interconnect's ease of execution and faster turnarounds were key
In California, besides various propositions on the ballot,
there was a tight race in which Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) beat Republican Matt Fong.
Cable was a beneficiary in major California markets like Los Angeles due to tight local-TV
inventory cable sources said.
Adlink "had tremendous success with political this
year," said Vicki Lins, the Los Angeles interconnect's director of marketing,
adding, "The results were better than we expected," but declining to talk
specifics. She attributed some of its success to a recent marketing mailing that targeted
Elsewhere, George W. Bush, who was re-elected as governor
of Texas, may be discouraging talk about 2000, but some cable executives are already
mobilizing. Mittal, for one, flew to Washington, D.C., soon after Election Day to lay the
groundwork for Campaign 2000, which, he predicted, "is going to be a large one."
"We're gearing up for Campaign 2000,"
Cuffaro said. Noting, "You can't educate [campaign operatives] on cable in the
heat of the campaign," she said CNI plans to host a political forum on 2000 in
Washington, D.C., next year.
"We also did pretty well on issue money, and we plan
to focus on that again in 1999 and 2000," she added.
Esser -- who estimated that CableRep generated $4.2 million
in political, well above projections -- felt that "2000 could be very
interesting." For one thing, he predicted, many presidential hopefuls will jockey for
position by breaking primary campaigns in late 1999, just as Steve Forbes did in 1995.
Some strategists felt that ethnic-oriented campaigns might
play a big role in the presidential campaign, although Mittal and Fischer both said they
booked no ethnic-oriented campaign buys of any consequence this year.
The thinking goes that candidates could target Latinos,
African-Americans and Asian-Americans by inserting on Galavision, Black Entertainment
Television and International Channel, respectively
The strategists cited the Bush brothers' success in
courting the Hispanic vote as contributing to their wins, and they speculated that George
W. Bush might take that strategy national in two years.