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Swing state status benefits TV stations

Anne Knowles

Nevada broadcasters are benefiting from this year’s presidential election campaign as candidates and political organizations rush the airwaves in hopes of winning over undecided voters.

Nevada is one of about 20 battleground states – swing states that could tip the tight race either way.

Never has the state – at least the northern part of it – received so much attention and so early in the process from candidates.

“In the past, I don’t recall presidential candidates spending money in Reno,” said Lawson Fox, general manager, KTVNChannel 2, the CBS affiliate in Reno.

“Maybe a token amount close to the election.”

“They started earlier than I’ve ever seen it,” said Marty Ozer, vice president and general manager with the Reno Fox TV affiliate, KRXI-TV, and KAME-TV, the UPN affiliate.

“They’re spending a lot of money in Reno right now.”

How much is anyone’s guess, because neither the TV stations nor the candidates’ offices will talk numbers, although the contracts are public record, according to Fox.

The influx of ads, though, is definitely pushing up pricing.

“Prices are strong,” said KTVN’s Fox.

They would be strong anyway because the Reno market is growing, he said.

“But when there is peak demand like now, prices are strong.”

That’s in part because TV broadcasters have limited inventory to sell.When demand rises, so do prices.

Additionally, prices are volatile due to the way space is sold.

Advertisers can buy space in one of two ways.On a fixed rate basis they pay more, but they’re guaranteed the exact spot they want – say, a 30-second slot during CBS’s wildly popular “CSI” series.

Or advertisers can pay a lower rate for a pre-emptible spot, in TV parlance.

That means their ad can be bumped by another advertiser willing to pay more for the space.

If demand is high enough, as it is now, popular space ends up essentially being auctioned off to the highest bidder.

“In high demand, it can double the rate,” said Fox.

But stations have to be careful to not alienate good advertisers.

“You have to manage your inventory for local clients that are with you year round,” said Ozer.

The political advertising started as early as last December, when MoveOn.org and other so-called 527 tax-exempt political organizations began running ads here.

Then in March the Bush-Cheney campaign began advertising in 18 states, including Nevada, according to Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the campaign.

Then, in April, Kerry entered the fray, according to Laura Capps, a spokeswoman for his campaign.

Both campaigns claim Nevada is a state they’re determined to win.

At least for now, Nevada broadcasters are the big winners.


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