BizWorthy: Political Ads Help TV Stations Offset Ad Revenue Loss From Pandemic
You've probably noticed TV has looked a little different since Election Day. That's because the airwaves are now free of political ads. While those ads can be overwhelming for viewers, they're big windfalls for stations. And that bump was especially important this year since the pandemic has caused a drop in TV ad revenue. For more, we turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.
Marshall Terry: Tony, just how hard has the pandemic hit stations in Charlotte and how much did political ads make up for it this year?
Tony Mecia: Yeah, Marshall, sort of interesting to see. When the pandemic hit, we had advertising of all kinds really fall off. In the TV industry, the estimates are anywhere between 15-30% was how much they were down in ad revenue this spring. But then we had this big election, you might have heard about it, Marshall. And so you had all of these political ads pouring money into North Carolina. A lot of that went to Charlotte TV stations, an estimated $150 million in the Charlotte market. It's not clear if it really made up 100% for the money they lost, but it was certainly a boost they wouldn't have otherwise had.
Terry: Which station took in the most money?
Mecia: So looking at just the U.S. Senate race, which was a hugely expensive Senate race, WSOC Channel 9 took in the most, about $8.4 million, according to records with the Federal Communications Commission. And then WBTV was behind that. It tended to be tiered by whose ratings were the highest because, you know, like other kinds of advertising, political advertisers want to reach as many people as possible. So you think of SOC, which is an ABC station, they've got "The Bachelorette," they've got "The View." Those are much more expensive than, say, reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show" -- nothing against "The Andy Griffith Show."
Terry: We've talked a lot about development projects slowing or getting canceled because of the pandemic. But you report this week that a renovation of the Charlotte Convention Center is moving forward. Now, is that because conventions are getting canceled and now is a good time to do that work with nothing going on in that building?
Mecia: Well, I talked with the president of the company that's doing the construction at the convention center, Edison Ford. And what he told me is that this was planned all along. They were going to do this renovation and expansion, but it has been made a little bit easier by the fact that there really aren't any conventions in town. There aren't as many people driving cars on the street. So it's a lot easier to close off streets and get some of the work done.
He said they're a little bit ahead of schedule, although people in the construction industry never liked to be tied to a particular date. But he thought that it would finish on schedule in October of 2021.
Terry: And what exactly is being done with the renovation?
Mecia: They are adding about 50,000 square feet of meeting space and other space. The idea is to update the building and make it more appealing so that when these conventions eventually do come back, that it's high-quality space.
Terry: Thanks, Tony.
Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.
Terry: That's Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.