Monday, October 22, 2012

ESPN Seeks Touchdown With Political Ads

Commercial breaks on ESPN this fall may contain some unfamiliar people from outside the world of sports: politicians.

ESPN has announced plans to work with ad-sales company NCC Media LLC to sell a larger portion of its ad time to political campaigns. The ad time that ESPN is planning to sell to political campaigns would normally be sold to national advertisers. The ads are slated to air during ESPN’s college and pro football broadcasts.

This signals both a willingness by ESPN to explore new revenue sources, and cable television’s increasing cachet in political advertising. Because political advertising has generally been more local — and because broadcast television has been seen as being more locally aimed — campaign ads have aired far more frequently on broadcast networks than cable.

The ratings of cable networks like ESPN have been increasing lately, though, and cable channels tend to be more narrowly aimed at certain groups of customers, something that political advisers love to take advantage of.

It is estimated that $5.64 billion will be spent on broadcast television in political advertising in 2012, compared to $940 million for cable. However, that $940 million nearly doubles the $478 million spent on cable advertising in the 2008 election.

– Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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