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Local TV stations get boost from political ads

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Unless you're a political junkie, you probably were relieved when Nov. 3 arrived and the flurry of candidates' TV ads stopped.

Here's a small bit of solace: It could have been a whole lot worse. And a word of warning: It will be in 2012.

The Raleigh-Durham market's political ad saturation in October was 5.85 percent, Nielsen reports. That's well below top markets based on the percentage of political ads, including Cleveland at 23.44 percent, Portland, Ore., at 21.78 percent and Sacramento, Calif., at 21.18 percent.

This market didn't have a major competitive race, since U.S. Sen. Richard Burr stayed ahead in most polls, local TV executives say. That will change in 2012, with races for president and governor.

Nationally, ad spending was expected to reach $4 billion for this season. Politicians spent money on print, radio, online and other ads, but TV still receives the lion's share.

Federal campaigns' next reports on ad spending, which will cover the bulk of the election season, are scheduled to be filed next month.

This area's broadcasters got a healthy boost, which came as the slow economic recovery has revived demand from car dealers and other traditional TV advertisers.

Time Warner Cable Media Sales, which sells ads for News 14 and 40 other cable channels, saw revenue rise 50 percent in October compared with a year earlier, said spokesman Keith Poston. He declined to provide specifics.

"Most of that was political advertising," he said. "We did pick up a lot of candidates, and not just on the news channel. We also saw candidates looking to hit younger audiences, like on MTV."

WTVD, ABC 11, also is having a stronger year, said General Manager John Idler, who added that "the political advertising is just one of the contributing factors."

WRAL, the local CBS affiliate with the region's top-rated newscasts, also had a strong October, said General Manager Steven Hammel, who declined to provide specific numbers.

That said, the recent election season wasn't as good as 2008, "when you had all the various political stars in alignment," including the tight presidential race, he added. But this year did bring more ads for various local races, including candidates for judge seats, and the General Assembly.

Local viewers weren't the only ones happy to see the ad blitz end.

There are a finite number of TV spots, and "there are some local advertisers who don't appreciate getting displaced" by politicians, Hammel said. "The good news is that Nov. 3 comes and goes. Now we're able to air ads from loyal advertisers again."

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About the blogger

Assistant Business Editor Alan M. Wolf joined the N&O in 1999 covering the business of health care. He became an editor in 2001, and helps oversee the paper's daily business coverage and Sunday Work&Money section. He lives in Clayton with his wife and two children. Reach him at 919-829-4572 or e-mail him.