published Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Primary proves super bountiful for TV stations

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Today Tennesseans will help select which Republican candidate's face will grace their TV screens over the next eight months.

Whether it's Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul approving the message, Chattanoogans have already seen plenty of campaign ads. On NBC affiliate WRCB-TV Channel 3, Super Tuesday advertising more than doubled the network's expectation.

"We're over our budget, which is a good thing," said Ralph Flynn, the station's sales manager.

Networks look at past years with similar political circumstances to try to figure out what amount of political advertising to expect. Flynn said the biggest difference between this year and past elections is the amount of super PAC advertising. So far, WRCB has seen only one order from a candidate. The rest have come from outside organizations such as super PACs.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled against restrictions on corporate campaign spending, allowing super PACs to increase the dollars spent on uncoordinated campaign ads and other materials.

Outside groups such as super PACs spent nearly $11.5 million in the 10 states holding primaries today. About $2.3 million of that was spent in Tennessee and $2.2 million in Georgia on ads, automated calls and other campaign activity, USA Today reported Monday.

After today, Tennessee and Georgia may not see the same levels of spending. States seen as safely red or blue won't draw as many campaign dollars as more contentious swing states, said Dennis Wharton with the National Association of Broadcasters.

"If it's Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania, a state where it's a hotly competitive presidential election, and the station is in a congressional district where there's a huge congressional race, that can generate some additional revenue," he said.

"There probably won't be a lot of Obama money in Tennessee," he said.

Contact Carey O'Neil at coneil@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525. Follow him at twitter.com/careyoneil.

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