Forecasters called for record-shattering political ad spending this year and radio participated in the windfall. Based on results from the third quarter and the month of October, most publicly traded radio companies told investors on their quarterly earnings call they expect 2020 to surpass previous in-house records for the category.
At iHeartMedia, political put $40 million on the books in Q3 and another $55 million in October. “This will be by far the biggest political year that we've ever had,” President and COO Rich Bressler said during the company quarterly results call. All told, iHeart execs said they expect political to be up 67% from the presidential election of 2016. The impact can be seen in three battleground states. Total October revenues in Michigan were up 25% year over year, Florida grew 14% and Wisconsin increased 12%. “While there was clearly unevenness in the political spend by geography, our results demonstrate the value of a broad distribution of markets,” CEO Bob Pittman said.
Entercom hauled in $5 million in election advertising for Q3, up from $1.7 million in the third quarter of last year. The pace picked up considerably in October with $16.5 million forecast for Q4. “For the full year, political revenues are now expected to come in at about $30 million versus $29 million in 2016 and $25 million in 2018,”said CFO Richard Schmaeling.
At $5.8 million, political was a Q3 high watermark at Cumulus Media. That compares to $1.7 million in Q3 2019 and $3.6 million in Q3 2018. “Political, as you might expect, was clearly very strong, as our footprint overlapped nicely with swing states,” Executive VP/CFO Frank Lopez-Balboa said. “This was a record quarter for political, and we're on track for another record quarter in Q4.”
“Political revenue has been on fire this year,” Townsquare Media CEO Bill Wilson said. The category played a major role in the company’s Q3 rebound with $4.5 million in revenue, more than triple what it booked in Q3 for the 2016 elections. And based on what's already in the pipeline, Townsquare expects to book $9 million in Q4 and end the year with $16 million in political ad sales, a whopping 75% more than in 2016.
Beasley Media Group reeled in more than twice the amount of election ad revenue than it budgeted for. With $3 million on the books for the three months ended Sept. 30, political was the company’s fourth largest ad category, accounting for nearly one in every 10 ad dollars spent. And it was the only category to show year-over-year growth.
Univision execs said 2020 looks like it will be a record-setting year for political. The Hispanic media giant reported $34 million in total political and issue advertising across TV and radio in Q3, far exceeding what it saw in the 2018 and 2016 election cycles. When the political dust settles, CFO Bob Entwistle said he expects Univision will have more than twice as much political ad revenue this year than in the last presidential election.
Salem Communications also got a boost as campaigns and PACs booked $1.9 million in Q3. That beat both the $1.2 million in political for Q3 2018 and the $1.5 million in Q3 of the 2016 presidential election year.
Urban One wrote up $4.43 million in political during Q3, including $2.4 million for its radio segment. “The political advertising environment has been nothing short of extraordinary,” CEO Alfred Liggins said. “Our target audience is in high demand.” About $10 million has been booked in the fourth quarter, which brings Urban One’s total to over $15.3 million for the radio stations alone. That’s 70% more than the company's previous record high water mark in 2012. “Across the whole platform, we have exceeded $20 million of gross political revenue,” CFO Peter Thompson said.
Entravision, which owns and operates primarily Spanish-language TV and radio stations, reported $6.3 million in political during the quarter. TV captured most of that with radio pulling in $1.2 million. The company said it expected total political ad sales to reach $28 million for the entire 2020 election cycle, far exceeding its previous record of $16.6 million set in 2012. Of that total, $14.2 million came in the fourth quarter, including $11 million for TV and $3 million for radio.
Saga booked $1.8 million in political advertising during the quarter and $3.1 million during the first nine months of the year. Election advertising remained strong in October and the first few days of November, which has Saga expecting October to be its highest revenue month of the year.