Political advertisers are buying more cable TV than ever, but not necessarily in prime-time or on the networks you'd expect.
Channels that haven't historically seemed like obvious buys for political advertisers, including Food Network and HGTV, have sold more than three times the amount of TV spots to political buyers this election cycle compared to 2012. And leading into Saturday's GOP primary in South Carolina, cable buys in prime time were down from the 2012 race, while political advertisers bought more than twice as many daytime and fringe-time cable TV spots.
Data is a big influence on the shift, said Tim Kay, director of political strategy at National Cable Communications, which serves as a sales and marketing firm for the cable, telco and satellite TV industries. NCC, which is owned by Comcast, Cox and Time Warner, has partnerships with many of the political data and analytics firms that have sprouted up since the 2012 presidential election, according to Mr. Kay. He declined to name most of the data partners.
The data firms are "very influential on how they dictate the television aspects of the buys," said Mr. Kay. Campaigns and PACs are investing in data and analytics services that help them determine what shows their target voters are likely to watch.
The cable industry sold $500 million worth of TV spots to political advertisers in 2012, and is on pace to hit $850 million this election, said Mr. Kay. While the influx of Super PAC advertising and the general fragmentation trend moving audiences away from broadcast TV has contributed to the growth, he said he believes the increase is "a direct result of data that's been inserted in this community."