The One Place on Earth Where Political Ads Are Sorely Missed

Local television revenues are taking a hit in the election off year.

Dozens of televisions display a political advertisement with the image of former Speaker of the House and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista Gingrich at the American furniture electronics and appliances store December 27, 2011 in Urbandale, Iowa. 
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Matt Berman
Nov. 25, 2013, 7:12 a.m.

Un­less you live in New Jer­sey or Vir­gin­ia, 2013 has been bliss­fully free of tele­vised polit­ic­al ads. You can watch all the Sein­feld re­runs you want and not be bom­barded with someone’s grandma calmly ex­plain­ing to you over the air why your con­gres­sion­al rep­res­ent­at­ive is the second com­ing of Lu­ci­fer. Or, you know, that a politi­cian run­ning for one of your state’s Sen­ate seats isn’t a witch.

But, as it turns out, that’s not good news for every­body. In fact, it’s very, very bad news for the com­pan­ies that own loc­al tele­vi­sion sta­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Pew Re­search, some big com­pan­ies have suffered ma­jor rev­en­ue losses this year due to the lack of polit­ic­al ad­vert­ising. The Wash­ing­ton Post Co., which owns six loc­al tele­vi­sion sta­tions, saw an 18 per­cent rev­en­ue de­cline this year, with a $16 mil­lion loss in polit­ic­al ad money. Scripps, which owns 19 loc­al tele­vi­sion sta­tions, amassed just $1 mil­lion in polit­ic­al ad rev­en­ue in the third quarter of this year, com­pared with nearly $33 mil­lion dur­ing the same peri­od in 2012. Sev­en ma­jor com­pan­ies in total showed sig­ni­fic­ant de­clines in rev­en­ue this year com­pared with last year.

Last year, loc­al tele­vi­sion sta­tions re­ceived a re­cord $3.1 bil­lion from polit­ic­al ads. So while you may be dread­ing the re­turn of elec­tion sea­son next year, know that there are at least a few people who can’t have the ads turned back on soon enough.


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