The run-up to the 2020 US election is raising the prospect of new records being set for political ad spending, broadcasters say. And a lot is down to the Donald Trump factor.

A dynamic and crowded Democratic field is one reason for the excitement; another is the prospect of President Trump facing a challenge from his own Republican Party.

In earnings calls recently, the FT reports, executives have suggested the run-up to the November 2020 election will see “enormous”, “historic”, and “gargantuan” amounts spent on advertising as parties and candidates duke it out in a bid to sway public opinion.

One reason for the optimism is that, according to Kantar CMAG, local stations received a midterm election revenue boost of some $3.1bn on TV ads – $1bn more than in 2014.

Steven Marks, COO of Sinclair Television Group told the FT that politics has become “the best TV show on the planet”, with new candidates announcing presidential ambitions “every other day”.

“I think [in] 2020 we’re not going to be able to get out of the way of the money,” he added. “It’s going to be literally hand over fist.”

And Lucy Rutishauser, Sinclair CFO, forecasts the company will earn more in 2020 than its best previous year – 2012, when revenue was $266m. 

Others spoke on similar lines based on early ad down payments for the 2020 campaign.

Gray Television’s chairman and chief executive, Hilton Howell, said in his almost 30 years’ experience, the company had never taken in campaign money so early.

“For us to have presidential ad money at this point, I think it’s going to be literally just raining money in 2020,” he said.

Executives also say they don’t believe that President Trump’s mastery of free publicity will stunt spending in his camp.

“In 2016, President Trump didn’t spend a lot of money on his own behalf because of all the free media that he was getting at the time,” said Perry Sook, chairman and chief executive of Nexstar Media.

 “We don’t anticipate that being the case in 2020,” Sook told analysts.

“There’s a big difference between running an insurgent campaign and an incumbent campaign,” said Steve Passwaiter, general manager of Kantar Media/CMAG. “I just think because [Mr Trump] is going to have to run a different campaign it’s going to be an expensive one.”

Advertising spend stood at $193.3bn in 2016, the year President Trump was elected, according to WARC data. TV accounted for $70.2bn of that figure, or 36.3%, followed by mobile internet at $38.4bn and desktop internet on $38.3bn.

Sourced from the Financial Times, WARC