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Local TV Stations Win in the Battle Over Healthcare Reform

So far, except for the money paid to lobbyists, it's hard to paint anyone as a winner in the increasingly fractious battle over healthcare reform. But there is one segment that is getting a windfall out of this that has probably come quite unexpectedly: local TV stations. The New York Times reported yesterday that organizations representing both sides of the debate have spent a total of $57 million on advertising in the last six months, with most of the money coming in only during the last six weeks.

Not all of it is going into the coffers of local TV stations, but much of it is. The Times cites one example of a $12 million being spent in 12 states on ads by an organization called Americans for Stable Quality Care; in another example, a campaign from the United States Chamber of Commerce, which opposes the House proposal on health reform, started in five states and is now being expanded to an additional 15. Local radio is also seeing some money. The National Republican Committee has run a radio campaign in thirty states, "aimed at Democrats in conservative and swing districts." As the battle intensifies, Evan Tracey, COO of TNS/Media Intelligence's Campaign Media Analysis Group is predicting one of the biggest public policy ad efforts ever.

This windfall comes as good news for local TV (and radio) for two reasons:

  1. Local media has seen huge erosion in ad dollars during the recession. According to TNS, spot TV -- also known as local broadcast -- showed a stunning 27.5 percent drop in ad revenue in the first quarter of this year; local radio's ad revenue dropped by 26.8 percent. Print, when aggregated, didn't perform quite as badly.
  2. The healthcare spend comes in what is usually an off-year for local media, as its fortunes often rise and fall with election years. As bad as things are, local media execs have no doubt been looking toward 2010, not late 2009, for some relief.
Not to say that this will completely make up for a wretched year. But somewhere there's a local TV exec smiling a bit more than he thought he would have been a few months ago.

(Another winner in the healthcare reform ad push? Google. But you knew that.)

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