PQ Media is sticking with its earlier forecast for a lofty $8.33 billion to be spent during the 2020 election cycle. The media research firm is also calling for an increase in political spending on radio, mainly driven by campaigns looking to reach multicultural audiences. And several radio groups say they expect election dollars to flow earlier than in past presidential contests.
Based on second quarter 2019 Federal Election Commission filings, election-related media buying has been mostly limited to television and digital media so far, although more than 10 other media platforms have seen an influx of spending. “Television is dominant among the candidates who can afford it,” mainly the candidates who raised over $10 million during Q2, Leo Kivijarv, Executive VP & Director of Research, PQ Media, writes in a new “Radio Matters” blog post from the Radio Advertising Bureau. At this early juncture, radio, direct mail and other media are getting their typically small share of budgets in the year before an election. “Yet, many media operators in these platforms, like radio station and billboard owners, have reported that 2019 political media buying is exceeding 2015 revenues,” Kivijarv points out.
That’s a trend Inside Radio picked up on during several radio groups’ second quarter 2019 earnings calls. In light of today’s turbulent, always-on political cycle, some radio execs said they expect political spending to ramp up sooner than in previous presidential elections, especially in states with early primaries. Townsquare Media, for example, built fourth quarter political ad spending into its full year 2019 guidance. “We see a very healthy political environment now and are really excited as we go into 2020,” Townsquare CEO Bill Wilson told investors on the company’s most recent earnings call. Entravision CEO Walter Ulloa is also among industry leaders expecting political dollars to pick up in Q4. “We do have expectations that we'll see fourth quarter political,” he said on the company’s Q2 call. Like other broadcasters that own stations in California, Ulloa is excited about the most populous state in the country moving its primary up to March. “That's going to be a very competitive primary,” Ulloa said, one that “could decide the running presidential nominee.”
But not all broadcasters expect the political spigot to open this year. “We don't really expect to see much political in the second half of 2019 until we move closer into 2020,” Beasley Media Group CFO Marie Tedesco said on her company’s earnings call.
Back to Kivijarv’s political update, the largest political bounty for broadcasters is expected to be harvested in of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan – the three states Donald Trump carried to win the Electoral College in 2016, which will also be a factor in 2020. While these pivotal states are deemed “too close to call,” they’re not alone in the toss-up category. In fact, Kivijarv identifies another dozen states where he expects radio to do well: Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota, Maine, Texas, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado.
“Radio will do well in these 15 states, particularly in the more rural areas, like the Appalachian regions of Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina, as well the northern regions of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota,” he predicts. If all 15 states remain in play, the overall total for political media buying could exceed Kivijarv’s $8.33 billion forecast. That’s because there are dozens of large markets in these states with higher ad rates, including Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Detroit, Miami, Phoenix, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas, Cleveland, Denver and Washington.