While the record Mega Millions jackpot (now up to $640 million) makes for a compelling news story for local stations, what is the value of airing the actual drawing?
For decades, lottery drawings have been a fixture on local stations but interest in live TV drawings has waned in recent years as people increasingly go online to check the winning numbers or scan their tickets at the local convenience store.
“There was a time way back when you could look at the ratings and see a bump,” WCVB general manger Bill Fine told TVSpy this week, talking about the significance of a station airing lottery drawings. “It’s just not that way anymore.”
WDBJ GM Jeff Marks agrees, to an extent.
“Do you work hard to do the lottery deal to get the drawing on the 11 o’clock news? No,” Marks said. “It’s more about the relationship.”
While being the official lottery station may not mean a spike in newscast ratings anymore, the opportunity does provide value for stations.
As with most lotteries, Mega Millions is governed by individual state lottery boards who strike deals with local stations. When a station wins the right to be its market’s official lottery station, it gains a strong promotional platform.
Lottery drawings may not affect the week-to-week economics of a station, but lottery stations do get their logos on the Mega Millions billboards that dot their market, as well as a potential boost in ad sales from the lottery board.
“We think it still does have value,” Marks said. “When you are the lottery station, there are a lot of opportunities.”
In addition to marketing and sales considerations, having the lottery can strengthen a station’s core mission of making an impact in their community. Lottery station GMs consider the drawings to be a public service. And with $640 million on the line, stations are sure to make a big impact when they air the winning numbers tonight.
As the public’s desire to watch lottery drawings on TV decreases, there is still a good chunk of the population that feel compelled to watch the drawing live.
“There are a lot of people that still want to watch the drawing live,” said John Hagerty of the Virginia Lottery. “It’s their way of proving that the drawing is honest and valid.”
“You can bet there will be a lot of people tuning in tonight.”