Analyst: Political Advertising to Boost TV Coffers by 23%

New forecast based on spending surge in August

With just 61 days to go before Election Day, Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker is raising her estimates for political ad spending from $4.9 billion to $5.2 billion. She upped her forecast based on television spending in August, which surged 77 percent on local TV to more than $171 million, compared to July.

Local, network and cable TV are set to bring in $3.37 billion this election, boosting television revenue by more than 23 percent compared to last year. Local TV, at 54 percent, has the largest share of the three segments and is estimated to come in at $2.8 billion.

Although spending has been accelerating, the real squeeze on commercial inventory, especially in key states and markets, is getting close.

"The most crucial time is now," Ryvicker wrote. "While advertising picked up toward the end of second quarter, history would tell us that roughly 75 percent of total political dollars are spent within the last 7-8 weeks leading up to a general election."

Ryvicker's analysis also shows that there are some shifts in spending in the past month. Though Cleveland ($35.2 million), Washington, D.C. ($32.6 million), Tampa, Fla. ($29 million), Las Vegas ($28 million) and Orlando, Fla. ($23.2 million) have been the top markets in absolute dollars this year to date, Washington showed the biggest change in the past month. More than $20 million was spent in the nation's capital from July 1 to Aug. 26.

The spending picture shifts even more in Ryvicker's analysis of spending as a percentage of total market revenue. For example, nearly 22 percent of advertising in Sioux City, Iowa, is political.

A little less than half of the political spending on local TV, 45.7 percent, is for the presidential race with 33 percent for congressional races, 17.5 percent for ballot and 3.8 percent for local races.

Despite all the chatter over the use of the Internet, its role in spending, while increasing, remains modest at 6 percent of total political spending. Ryvicker estimates Internet spending at $311 million, up from $188 million in 2008.

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