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Moody's: US broadcasters to benefit from surge in political ads for 2012 elections

21 Jun 2011

New York, June 21, 2011 -- Political advertising centered on the 2012 presidential and statewide election contests are all but certain to break new records next year, offering significant credit benefits for speculative-grade, pure- play US television broadcasters that use the cash to help pay down debt, says Moody's Investors Service in a new report.

"The boost in revenues in 2012 will not, by itself, shift our stable outlook for the pure play US broadcast television sector, as political advertising will account for less than 7% of all television broadcast advertising revenues for these operators over the course of the two-year political cycle," said Moody's Vice President-Senior Analyst Carl Salas, author of the report. "But speculative-grade broadcasters that use the 2012 cash windfalls to reduce debt will improve the credit quality of their bonds and bank facilities."

Political ad revenues, which broke new records during 2010's midterm election contests, will grow by 9%-18% in 2012 above 2010 levels, according to Moody's base-case scenario for the US pure-play broadcast industry. Voters in 2012 are set to decide whether to re-elect President Obama, amid a new round of elections for the entire House of Representatives, one-third of the US Senate, and a number of governors' seats.

The broadcast television industry benefited strongly from the January 2010 Supreme Court decision that effectively ended spending caps for political advertising that had been central to legislation enacted in 2002. Unlike in 2004 and 2008, the presidential election in 2012 will be conducted without limits on campaign spending by corporations or unions.

"Virtually all US broadcasters will benefit from spending on political ads in 2012 but especially those speculative-grade operators that saw the biggest percentage increases in total revenues from political ads in 2010," said Salas. These include Barrington Broadcasting Group (B3 stable), Gray Television (Caa1 stable), Local TV (Caa1 stable), Nexstar Finance Holdings/Nexstar Broadcasting (B3 positive) and NVT Networks/New Vision (B1 stable).

Certain companies will also benefit from their positions in particular states that look set for heated political contests in 2012, whether for the state's share of electoral votes for president, a Senate seat, or the governorship. Barrington, Local TV and Nexstar all own broadcast operations in Missouri, a state that could see close contests for all three offices in 2012, the report says. Barrington and Local TV, meanwhile, both own broadcasting in Iowa, which is set to be the first state to vote in the Republican presidential selection process.

Salas said he expects lower percentage increases in total revenues from political ads in 2012 for other broadcasters, including Belo (Ba3 positive) and Sinclair Broadcast Group (Ba3 stable)—companies with large geographic footprints and relatively diversified revenue streams that tend to rely less on political advertising.

The report, "US Broadcasters Get Ready for Record-Breaking Political Ad Spending in 2012," is available at moodys.com.

* * * * *

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS ONLY: For more information, please call one of our global press information hotlines: New York +1-212-553-0376, London +44-20-7772-5456, Tokyo +813-5408-4110, Hong Kong +852-3758-1350, Sydney +61-2-9270-8141, Mexico City 001-888-779-5833, São Paulo 0800-891-2518, or Buenos Aires 0800-666-3506. You can also email us at mediarelations@moodys.com or visit our web site at www.moodys.com.

New York
Carl Salas
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
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New York
John Diaz
MD - Corporate Finance
Corporate Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

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Moody's: US broadcasters to benefit from surge in political ads for 2012 elections
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