Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


October 22, 2012

Republican challenger Tom Smith got off to a fast start on spending for local television commercials in northeast Pennsylvania in his race against incumbent Bob Casey Jr. for one of Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senate seats. Democrat Casey, however, is closing the gap. Responding to the tightening of the Senate race he once had a firm grip on, Casey has outspent Smith on regional television advertising so far this month, but still lags behind Smith in overall ad spending at television network affiliates.

So far in October alone, Casey has spent just more than $321,000 in advertising on northeast Pennsylvania's four major network affiliates, beating Smith's spending of $279,145, according to records kept at each station. But Smith took an early approach to TV spots and has so far spent $540,260 on regional TV advertising, compared to $479,331 for Casey. Those figures cover spending from July 1 through Oct. 17. Smith propelled his way into the public eye in August in both northeast Pennsylvania and around the state.

At the region's four major network affiliates, Smith spent a shade under $100,000 on TV advertising in July and August, while Casey spent nothing. The region's four major network affiliates are WNEP 16, the ABC affiliate in Moosic; WBRE, the NBC affiliate in Wilkes-Barre; WYOU, the CBS affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, and WOLF, the Fox affiliate in Plains Township. There was no spending in the Casey-Smith race at either WSWB or WQMY, the region's CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates, respectively. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Designated Market Area (DMA) includes 17 counties in northeast Pennsylvania. Though Pike County is not included in the market - it is part of New York City's market - all of the northeast Pennsylvania regional affiliates are broadcast there. About 56 percent of Smith's regional TV spending overall went to WNEP, while Casey spent about 46 percent of his ad dollars there. In the Poconos, however, Smith seems content to let Casey have the airwaves.

Smith hasn't spent a penny for advertising on Blue Ridge Cable since the primary, while Casey's campaign has invested heavily in the local cable system. Because Blue Ridge outsources its advertising sales to a media company that also represents other regional cable companies, it's impossible to determine exactly how much was spent in Monroe, Pike and Carbon counties through Blue Ridge, which is the only cable provider in Monroe County.

Smith's early spending regionally is the same in other parts of the state. He spent heavily in Philadelphia from July 30 to Sept. 3, topping $75,000 at NBC 10 alone. Casey's camp didn't make a request for the station's advertising rates until Sept. 9, according to station records. In presidential advertising, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have decided it isn't worth it to spend money advertising on television in the region. Neither has spent any recent money advertising on a local TV station or cable system. Obama hasn't spent on local TV since July, Romney hasn't spent since prior to April's primary election. Pocono Record

In a move it compared to Apple Computer's shedding of the word computer, the Weather Channel Companies has dropped "channel" from its name. It's not ridding itself of the actual Weather Channel, a staple of cable lineups across the country. The channel's name will remain the same. But the corporate re-branding reflects the fact that most of the Weather Company's growth is coming from the Web and from specialized products for businesses, not from television. It senses huge opportunities in international markets where it will not have a television channel, but will have apps and Web sites.

"The word 'channel' is too limiting. The Weather Company better defines who we are," said David Kenny, who was named the chairman and chief executive of the company in January. Mr. Kenny proposed the name change while presenting a three-year plan to the company's board in September. (The company is owned by NBCUniversal and the private equity firms Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group.) In the board meeting, Mr. Kenny cited Apple's name change: "When Apple Computer decided to just be Apple, it broadened their minds to what was possible," he said. Apple put the iPhone on sale the same year it streamlined its name. The iPhone now brings in more revenue than Apple's computers do.

The change by the Weather Channel Companies reminded Mike Vorhaus, a digital media analyst who heads Magid Advisors, of the companies that dropped "dot-com" from their names a decade ago. "Now I think many companies will want to drop any reference to platform in their name," he said. "They aren't a channel or online or mobile - they are just media. Bye-bye channel, hello cross-platform." The flagship Weather Channel, available in 100 million homes in the United States, still accounts for more than half of the Weather Company's revenue, thanks in large part to the per-home fee it receives from cable and satellite distributors. But the channel business has been slowing significantly, Mr. Kenny said. Already the company's advertising revenues are fairly evenly split between television and digital media. He expects digital media (including mobile devices, an area of focus) to overtake television in that category.

Products for businesses - weather forecasts for airlines, energy traders, local television stations and others - account for 10 percent of the company's revenue now. That proportion could double in the next three years, Mr. Kenny said. Over the summer the company bought another supplier of professional products, Weather Central. It also bought Weather Underground, a competitor to its consumer Web site, Last week, just before the new name was announced internally, the company laid off about 75 people, 7 percent of its work force. The layoffs were attributed to a reorganization, partly necessitated by the recent acquisitions. Additionally, Mr. Kenny said the television division wasn't "altogether efficient" in its production, suggesting it was overstaffed.

Driving the acquisitions and the name change is a sense that the company's unit of measurement is not a minute or an hour of TV programming. Instead, it's a local forecast - one that can be shared on television, distributed to apps and sold to businesses. The company wants to offer a 30-day local forecast in the future. At an all-staff meeting last Wednesday, Mr. Kenny emphasized science and innovation, saying the Weather Company's focus was on "connecting people with the world's best weather forecasts." His comments foreshadowed a shift for the flagship television channel, as well. The previous chief executive of the company, Michael J. Kelly, oversaw the addition of taped reality shows and documentaries, some of which were only tangentially connected to weather. The changes sometimes lifted the channel's ratings, but alienated fans who wanted live weather news.

Mr. Kenny seems to be pulling back a bit: taped shows in the future will have weather as a "main character," he said, not just a background character. A documentary series about ironworkers in New York is not being renewed, for instance. Some new programs will emphasize stories from Internet users who submit weather videos and photos. "The TV division has really doubled down on weather enthusiasts as their core audience," Mr. Kenny said. "We're not trying to serve everybody," he added. "We're trying to serve our core audience really well." New York Times

The Republican and Democratic candidates vying to be the state's next attorney general will face off in an hourlong debate on Monday at Widener Law's Harrisburg campus. The debate between Republican David Freed and Democrat Kathleen Kane begins at 7 p.m., will air live on Pennsylvania Cable Network. It also is open to the public in room A180 of the campus' Administrative Building at 3800 Vartan Way. Doors open at 6 p.m. It is the first and only debate to be held between the two candidates. Libertarian candidate Marakay Rogers chose not to participate. The debate also can be viewed live on Widener's website.

Spokesmen for the campaigns Campaign expect the debate to be a game-changer for their candidate. "We're just over two weeks from Election Day and a large segment of the electorate remains undecided in this race. I expect that by 8pm Monday evening, when voters have been presented with the very clear choice between a seasoned District Attorney in Dave Freed and a former assistant in Kathleen Kane, we'll see the dynamics of this race change significantly," said Freed's campaign spokesman Tim Kelly. Kane spokesman Joshua Morrow said, "This will be an important opportunity for Pennsylvanians to see they have a real choice for Attorney-General between someone who is Governor Corbett's handpicked candidate and someone who will be an independent watchdog." Capitol newsroom reporters will ask questions of the candidates with PCN's vice president of programming Corinna Vecsey Wilson moderating. The Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents' Association is partnering with PCN on the debate coverage. Harrisburg Patriot-News; more in Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette