Posted by Dale Buss on July 25, 2012 11:11 AM
It rolls over the television industry every four years like a welcome wave of money, basically no matter what the economy at large is doing. The quadrennial advertising mania created by the coincidence of U.S. elections and the Olympics is upon us, and more outlets than ever are looking for ways to tap into all thatextra cash that will be spent by politicians and Olympics sponsors.
The bonanza is even bigger than before during this election cycle because courts keep upholding the validity of corporate and individual election spending as free speech, so super-PACs will be adding their hundreds of millions of dollars of TV ads to the amounts already due for expenditure by the political parties and candidates themselves.
ESPN, while gearing up its Olympics coverage even while NBC has the broadcast rights, has come up with a way to sell a bigger portion of its ad time to political campaigns. Armed with its increased ability to narrowcast ads geographically, and the cross-demographic appeal of its iconic SportsCenter program, the Disney-owned programmer has found a way to welcome more political ads during its NFL and college-football telecasts in October and November as well.
The Disney-owned sports behemoth is selling a chunk of its ad time to a US cable-operator group that sells the time to political campaigns. The deal overcomes an issue that national cable networks have had: most political ads are sold locally on broadcast stations.
Some analysts said that more-than-expected inventory of unsold slots was left over from a lackluster TV-upfront market this spring, according to the Wall Street Journal. But ESPN disputed that. "We had a very good upfront," Ed Erhardt, ESPN's president of global customer marketing and sales, told the newspaper.
ESPN isn't alone in attempting to tap into the larger largesse of political advertisers as November elections near. Major swing-state metro markets, in states including Ohio and California, also stand to benefit heavily from the spending influx. Each state has two markets among the top 10 in political spending so far this year, according to Wells Fargo, much of which has gone to local TV stations.
But while there are some attractive and even very fit politicians, there's no advertising — or programming — on ESPN or anywhere else this season that is likely to rival the gazes riveted upon the fourth annual "The Body" issue of ESPN Magazine, which features the nude but still somewhat modestly displayed bodies of world-class athletes including Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks and Brazilian surfing star Maya Gabeira. It puts a special focus on the Summer Olympics.