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Ukraine invasion, political ad revenues cited in Atlanta-based Gray TV earnings call

Demonstrators rally for Ukraine in New York City. (Photo by Tong Su via Unsplash.)

By David Pendered

The impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on TV advertising revenues in the United States is unknowable at this time and strong revenues from political ads are expected this year, the chairman and CEO of Gray Television said in an earnings call.

Gray Chairman and CEO Hilton Howell Jr. delivered the two messages in a Feb. 25 earnings call for the Atlanta-based company. Gray is the nation’s largest owner of top-rated local TV stations, according to its annual report.

“The Ukraine situation is so new and so fluid, that we simply do not know what impacts Russia’s actions may have on our businesses or, more importantly, the businesses that use our advertising and production services and what consequences the new sanctions that have been announced may have,” Howell said.

Howell did not elaborate. He continued his presentation, describing several financial points including a report of Gray’s $3.2 billion in revenues in 2021, before outlining the company’s expectation of strong revenues from political advertising this year.

“We are today increasing our 2022 political revenue guide by approximately 10 percent, from the $525 million announced on our November 2021 earnings call to the $575 million today,” Howell said. “This new target of $575 million represents a whopping 55 percent increase over the $372 million of political revenue that we achieved on a combined historical basis in the last midterm election year of 2018.”

Political ads tend to resist downturns in the economy that affect other market segments, the company noted in its annual filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission: “Our political advertising revenue is generally not as significantly affected by economic slowdowns or recessions as non-political advertising revenue.”

The expected growth rate of Gray’s advertising indicates that political advertising will approach the amount collected in the presidential election year of 2020. Alabama candidates, for example, started airing TV ads in December 2020, though the primary election is not until May. The same trend of early ad campaigns is true in Nebraska and Illinois, according to a report on the earnings call. Arizona, Mississippi and Wisconsin also are expected to produce a high volume of political advertising.

TV airwaves were filled with political advertising in 2020. Democratic presidential candidates aired their pitches in seeking the party’s nomination. After Joe Biden secured the nomination, the nation saw months of ads during the general election campaign waged by Biden and Donald Trump.

Georgia was among the battleground states that experienced heavy ad flights. Two Senate seats were on the ballot and both went into runoff elections. Across the nation, a total of 34 Senate seats were up for grabs, with candidates buying air time to support social media campaigns.

Campaign season also plays to strengths of Gray’s political analyst, Greta Van Susteren, who joined Gray in 2019. Van Susteren anchors “Full Court Press,” a weekly news show that builds off her prior work with CNN, Fox and MSNBC.

Monica Kaufman Pearson also has joined Gray, the company announced in December 2021. The Atlanta icon signed a two-year deal to host two programs in the Atlanta market, at CBS46/WGCL-TV and Peachtree TV/WPCH-TV.

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David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.

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2 Comments

  1. Kate April 29, 2022 3:33 am

    Peace support will always be on the side of Ukraine, it is impossible to understand and forgive the position of the aggressor country. You also have the opportunity to help the Ukrainian army, I advise you to learn more about it here https://engre.co/news/articles/help-ukrainian-army-and-people-during-the-war/Report

    Reply

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