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With just days to go, it looks like TV broadcasting is going to survive 2020. The second quarter was brutal, but the ad market steadied over the summer and in the fall the political spending reached unprecedented levels.
After all the votes are counted, stations will have harvested more than $4.5 billion in political. The windfall means that total ad revenue will grow this year, despite the sudden collapse of core.
Gray Television told investors in February that it might do as much as $275 million, but wound up taking in more than $400 million. The take was so large and unexpected that the group felt compelled to share some of it with the rank and file in the form of 3% bonuses.
And hope is in the air as we approach the new year, with the rapid distribution of two vaccines that are said to be safe and effective and a federal government that has agreed to pump another $900 billion of pandemic relief into the economy and committed to keeping interest rates low.
Nonetheless, 2021 will be lean year. Most of the political advertising will disappear as it always does in odd-numbered years when elections are scarce. And despite the arrivals of the vaccines, the economy will still be hobbled through the first half of the year.
Core will not bounce all the way back to 2019 levels. It might get half the way back if all goes well with those vaccines and the automakers sell a