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ESPN Opens Up Roster Space for More Political Ads

11 July 2012 in Trading Ideas

Get ready for more trash-talking during telecasts of college and professional football this fall – in between the game action.

Disney’s (DIS) ubiquitous ESPN sports cable channel has reached an agreement that will bring more political ads to the network’s football coverage ahead of the November general elections, according to the Open Secrets blog, which cited a Wall Street Journal report from this past weekend.

The ESPN deal stands in contrast to most political ad spending, which tends to be done in local markets via local broadcast TV stations. The Journal cited a Borrell Associates projection that about $5.64 billion will be spent on political advertising on broadcast television this year, compared with about $940 million spent on cable television ads.

However, cable is making inroads into broadcast TV’s turf. The Journal reported that cable has promoted its ability to target geographically more narrowly than broadcast TV, and cable’s increased ratings are winning more ad dollars: Cable is expected to draw 14% of all TV political ad spending this year, up from 10% four years ago, according, to Borrell.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which publishes the Open Secrets blog, political parties, super PACs and other outside groups have spent more than $170.6 million on outside advertising so far this year – a level that Open Secrets calls “remarkable” for this early in the election.

What’s more, that figure doesn’t include money spent by secretive political nonprofit groups that don’t have to report spending on “issue ads” more than 60 days away from the election. In 2010, these groups outspent super PACs by a 3-2 margin, according to Open Secrets.

How do you think increased ad spending on ESPN will affect political expenditures?