For TV, Campaigns Create Big Winners, (Relative) Losers
When Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum suspended his presidential campaign last month, the former Pennsylvania senator all but sealed Mitt Romney’s easy victory in the state’s April 24 primary.
Santorum also dashed the expectations of his home state’s broadcasters, who were counting on the candidate to keep the race competitive and their ad inventory—much of which had already been reserved by Romney’s campaign—in high demand.
The day after Santorum dropped out, The New York Times reported that “Romney aides immediately went to work canceling what they expected would be a $2.9 million advertising campaign in Pennsylvania, a huge savings equivalent to roughly 40 percent of the cash Mr. Romney had on hand at the end of February.”
The development led Kathy Kiely of the Sunlight Foundation to claim on the organization’s blog that the “biggest loser” in Pennsylvania primary was not Santorum, but the state’s 46 local broadcasters.
That got us thinking: we’re sympathetic to the argument that the windfall that local TV outlets gather during the political season ought to be returned, to some degree, to the public in the form of stronger political reporting.
But, given that there are only so many hours in which to sell ads—and other potential advertisers ready to buy that inventory—just how big is that windfall? And just who are its beneficiaries?
The answer, as with many things: it depends.