One of the most important dates in this year’s political calendar could be November 26th.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving will bring with it a 128-year-old rivalry, a football game between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets (or, as the rivalry is known locally, “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate”).
The football game will be televised nationally on ESPN, and viewers outside of Georgia can get a taste of what residents of the state have been watching on their TVs for the past few months.
On December 6, just a week and a half after the game, Georgia will host a runoff for a US Senate seat, pitting incumbent Raphael Warnock and challenger Herschel Walker (who played for the Georgia Bulldogs from 1980-1982) to face
An ESPN source says that “both candidates have a significant interest in the Georgia runoff [from] the PACs” in the football rivalry game, as well as other upcoming ESPN games (like the Georgia Tech at Iowa basketball game on November 29).
In fact, viewers of collegiate sporting events featuring a Georgia (or neighboring states) team are almost certain to have seen ads from Warnock, Walker, or the various Super PACs that are putting money into the race.
According to Medium Buying, which tracks political ad spend and rates, 30-second spots run during the December 3 Georgia-LSU SEC championship game on Atlanta’s CBS affiliate (owned by Gray TV) for $130,000; 30-second ads on Fox’s Atlanta station for Monday’s match between the USA and Wales at the World Cup are running for $35,000. And those are candidate discount rates, with PACs facing a much steeper market rate.
Medium Buying notes that as of November 17, more than $31 million in TV ads had been booked, and that number is expected to accelerate in the coming days as the campaign’s war coffers replenish and PACs brace themselves focus where they want to funnel cash register.
The Senate runoff is shaping up to be another bonus bonanza for the TV business, and it comes amid a troubled economic environment where non-political ads are beginning to crack.
That means any TV company with exposure to the state of Georgia could benefit, although there are a number of reasons this year’s advertising revenue won’t be as lucrative as it would be in a similar runoff in January 2021.
First of all, the January 2021 special election was about two Senate seats (eventually won by Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff) and control of the US Senate. There is only one seat up for grabs this time, and Democrats have already taken control of the Senate (although a 51stSt Senator would make her life so much easier).
Additionally, the state of Georgia changed its voting rules after the 2021 runoff, shortening the special election window to 4 weeks instead of 2 months in 2020 and 2021.
More than $500 million was spent on the 2020 runoff, according to AdImpact.
Although it’s not yet clear how much will be spent this time, one political ad watcher predicts it will be closer to $150 million to $200 million this time.
The shorter window (which means less time for fundraising campaigns) and single election should mean less spending, although one source in the political advertising world noted: Super PACs could change the equation with their large pools of money and willingness to pay market prices to count.
But that tighter window also means less time for deals to close or for networks to move inventory.
As a result, ESPN’s rivalry game won’t feature quite as many political ads as one might expect. “Our inventory of live sports is very scarce, so we’re limited in terms of what we can record,” adds the ESPN source.
Other beneficiaries of the ad boom will look mighty similar to 2020’s: Fox Corp., which owns an Atlanta station alongside Fox News, should see steady ad inflows (particularly with the NFL, college football, and the World Cup). ). Nexstar, TEGNA, and Gray Television all own multiple stations in the state, as well as stations in neighboring states such as Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama, some of which overlap with Georgia counties.
It’s all shaping up to be an early Christmas present for the companies involved, and perhaps a temporary breather from the advertising coldness that surrounds the rest of the media landscape.