Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. is looking forward to taking in a massive haul in TV ad spending in the run up to November’s midterm elections. The conservative-slanted broadcasting company—the second-largest owner of local TV stations in the U.S.—has already seen a surge in TV ad spending, thanks to competitive primary races in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other key states.
The Deadline entertainment website reported Thursday that Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley offered a rosy outlook on political ad spending during an appearance at the MoffettNathanson Annual Media and Communications Summit.
“Some of these primary races are crazy,” Ripley said. He cited Ohio, where Donald Trump-backed U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance prevailed in a hard-fought contest. The $75 million spent on TV ads for the primary was 40 times more than what was spent on the primary in the last election, Ripley said, and four times more than the last general election.
“On the one hand, I lament that we’re in the political environment that we are,” Ripley said. “On the other hand, it’s very good for our business.”
The surge in primary spending points to a record midterm in the fall, with what Ripley called the “big money” kicking in during the third and fourth quarter.
Among the states where important gubernatorial and Congressional races will unfold through November are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona. “There’s so much at stake here,” Ripley said, noting other states with significant Sinclair station presence like Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, Maryland and Maine.
Ripley also saw another emerging growth area, in spending on issue-related TV ads.
“More and more issues are going on direct ballots,” he observed, per Deadline. “With what’s going on with abortion rights, that’s going to just even add to that category.” The CEO also mentioned other issues that could generate significant ad spending, such as legalizing sports betting or cannabis.
In a conference call earlier this month, when Sinclair released a first quarter report showing the company earned $2.59 billion, Ripley said better-than-expected political advertising helped buoy revenue for the quarter, a sign that political ads will reach record levels this year, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“We believe this is a good indicator of how strong this year’s political cycle can be and gives us confidence that we can achieve a record amount of political advertising for a midterm election year,” Ripley said.
Sinclair, based in Hunt Valley, Md., owns or operates 185 TV stations in 86 markets across the U.S., according to the company’s website.
In April 2018, The Washington Post published an analysis of news coverage by Sinclair TV stations, done by Emory University political scientists Gregory J. Martin and Josh McCrain. They found evidence that “stations bought by Sinclair reduce coverage of local politics, increase national coverage, and move the ideological tone of coverage in a conservative direction relative to other stations operating in the same market.”
In December 2016, The Washington Post reviewed how much Sinclair stations helped the first Trump campaign.
A review of Sinclair’s reporting and internal documents shows a strong tilt toward Trump. Sinclair gave a disproportionate amount of neutral or favorable coverage to Trump during the campaign while often casting Clinton in an unfavorable light.
At the end of 2019, Sinclair finally ended one of its most controversial policies: the opinion segments featuring former Trump administration official Boris Epshteyn that all Sinclair TV stations were told to run.
Ripley’s remarks bring to mind similar comments made at a February 2016 media conference by CBS executive chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves.
Referring to Trump’s candidacy, Moonves said, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS … Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun. … I’ve never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going,” said Moonves at the time.
CBS indeed profited handsomely, but the outcome, of course, was far worse for America.
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