SNL Kagan forecasts that political spending will reach $2.5 billion in 2010, which would represent around a 25% gain over the midterm elections in 2006.
SNL Kagan says Sinclair Broadcast Group has the largest footprint of the local TV pure-plays in the 16 states with the most highly-contested elections. CBS and Univision also have a big presence in the battleground states, notes the new study, Broadcasting Guide to the 2010 Elections.
"In 2010, we expect that the combination of political unrest, high-profile congressional and gubernatorial races, and the Jan. 21 Supreme Court ruling that struck down certain laws restricting corporate and labor contributions to campaigns will lead to a political ad revenue treasure trove for broadcasters," noted SNL Kagan Analyst Tony Lenoir.
In a presentation at the TVB conference in New York last week, Kantar Media's CMAG President Evan Tracey said political spending was up around $160 million from the same point in 2006. "We are in a hypercompetitive place right now in our country's politics," said Tracey. "This is the most competitive environment I've ever seen."
One possible cloud on that sunny ad horizon is if the Senate were to approve a bill, the DISCLOSE Act, meant to take some of the teeth out of that Supreme Court ruling by requiring the major donors or heads of companies that directly fund campaign ads to appear in onscreen disclaimers in TV ads.
The bill, a reaction to the court's decision that the historic ban on direct corporate or union funding of electioneering ads (vote for or against this candidate) was an unconstitutional regulation of political speech, passed the House in June but failed to get a vote in the Senate. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to schedule another vote on the bill Thursday. It is considered a long shot for passage, but it only fell two votes short of a cloture vote last time.
The bill would also require a number of financial disclosures of donor contributions, ban direct funding by corporations with government contracts above a certain threshold; and expand the "electioneering communications" period to which those restrictions apply from 60 to 120 days before an election, though by now that last provision would be moot for the current election.
It also contains a provision that makes it take effect immediately, rather than having to wait for Federal Election Commission rules implementing it, so that it could apply to the mid-term elections.