Radio received more in political advertising than first realized. The political tracking firm Ad Impact had earlier estimated that $270 million went to radio during the 2022 campaign season. But it has spent the past several months analyzing the numbers and it has now raised its radio estimate by 15%. It says $310 million went into the medium, or a difference of $40 million.
One reason for the larger number is Ad Impact now believes radio got a bigger share of the dollars spent overall than earlier thought. It says radio captured a 3.52% share, which is nearly a point larger than the 2.77% share it had estimated.
What has not changed is the fact that broadcast television stations received a majority of the ad dollars spent. In fact, its share even grew in the final analysis. Ad Impact says TV stations received $4.73 billion worth of ad buys during the 2022 campaign season, or a 52.87% share of all dollars spent. It earlier estimated local TV stations would receive a 51.45% share. Cable television’s share jumped by five points, while connected TV and digital were expected to have roughly equal 15% shares. When the final numbers were tallied, both had smaller shares of the overall dollars spent than it had expected – with connected TV pulling in more than digital ads overall.
Ad Impact says because 2022 was the first time that it forecast connected TV spending, it expected it would need to recalibrate. In the end, it overestimated the segment’s spending by 24%. “We do anticipate CTV spending to grow in future cycles, given the increasing rates of cord-cutting,” it says in the report.
Yet even as cord-cutting has become increasingly prevalent, Ad Impact says broadcast TV is still the leading media type for political ad spending. It says its cable TV forecast was too low – spending exceeded projections by 17% – thanks to down-ballot races, where cable’s share was, on average, about 10% higher than in federal races.
The forecast also apparently was too digital-heavy as Ad Impact overestimated total digital spending by about 30%. It blames a belief that presidential candidate-driven digital spending in 2020 would hold up in 2022 and advertisers reducing their reliance on digital platforms for fundraising purposes. They instead spent more heavily on email and direct mail.
Overall, 2022 was still a banner year for the political ad category. It was not, however, quite as lucrative for media companies as Ad Impact first forecast. It says a total of $8.94 billion was spent on political advertising during the campaign cycle. That was eight percent lower than the $9.67 billion that it had predicted.
Ad Impact says its estimate for U.S. Senate races was spot on – it was within 2% of the actual totals. It was less accurate with U.S. House races, with projections of 19% off from the final spending totals. The big miss was with the gubernatorial campaigns where analysts had thought spending would have been a third higher than it was.
There were also some geographical surprises. Ad Impact had expected California to see the most political spending of any state this cycle, and that proved true. But the final spending totals outpaced its projection by $150 million. That put smiles on the faces of California broadcasters, but stations in Illinois could be forgiven for being a bit disappointed. Ad Impact’s forecast for spending there was $187 million less than expected. The firm’s most accurate forecast was in Virginia where its spending projection was only $14,287 off out of a total of $192 million spent in the state.
The revisions come as some radio groups say the 2022 political ad year was better than expected. Audacy CFO Rich Schmaeling said last week that they had $25 million in political ad revenue last year, which was a 19% increase compared to the last midterm election in 2018.
It was a record-setter for Salem Media Group, which said it had $5.9 million in political revenue last year. CEO David Santrella told analysts on his company’s conference call that it was most ever political revenue during a mid-term election for Salem.
Political was such a big factor during fourth quarter that Beasley Media Group says it was its fifth-biggest ad quarter, representing 7.5% of total fourth quarter revenue. CFO Marie Tedesco told investors on Beasley’s call that it even “masked” any ad slowdown in October and part of November. “Given the strong political demand during the period, we had a shortage of inventory for local,” she said.