Complaints about pricing weren’t coming in this cycle, insists Jeff Bartlett, WMUR’s general manager.
“Didn’t hear a shred of that this year,” he says. “We’ve had inventory. Nobody tried to put spots on this year.”
In past cycles the cost was always worth it, says media buyer Brad Todd, because WMUR’s news broadcasts capture politically savvy viewers.
“It’s not just an antenna,” says Todd. “They seriously devote a lot more resources to covering politics. Their stories are three minutes long. It’s not just mentioned in passing at the end of the newscast.”
There are ways to get around WMUR’s pricing, including running spots on cable and radio. But the most effective thing to do is go up early. “My advice is to start very early, and be prepared to shift resources to Boston if the market drives MUR’s rates up,” advises Todd.
WMUR’s Bartlett admits he’s onto something.
“If it’s early in the season, we’ll look at [a price adjustment],” says Bartlett. “But we do get into a bind when we get further into the election.”
At its uncompromising worst the station can be particularly hard on issue advertisers who aren’t covered under the Federal Election Campaign Act, which requires that candidates get the lowest unit rate.
“It’s been a problem for years and years and years and 2010 was just really bad,” says Paul Winn, a consultant with Smart Media Group. Last cycle, many issue advertisers on both sides of the aisle were forced to utilize more efficient options such as increasing their cable and radio budgets and buying national broadcast shows in the morning and primetime on Boston stations. Post-Citizens United, the competition for limited inventory is only going to get worse.
“You’re going to have more advertisers and more money [being spent], but the battlefield states haven’t changed so you’re going after the same inventory,” says Winn. “It’s going to be a lot of pain spread around.”
Bill Binnie knows the pain of the New Hampshire media market firsthand. The wealthy businessman ran for Senate in 2010, only to lose in the primary to then-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte. Sources say his experience with WMUR spurred him to buy a small rival station and try to build it up.
Binnie, however, claims it was just good business sense that led him to purchase WBIN in May 2011.
“I was a customer of the market, which is a very unique kind of buying experience,” he says. “I had never seen it from a political standpoint.”
Binnie has since invested resources in the Derry-based station, hiring talent away from WMUR in the form of general manager Gerry McGavick and launching a 10 p.m. newscast.
“Developing competition is a good thing,” he says.