UPDATE: Comments from RBC Capital Markets analysts were added to paragraphs 14 through 16.
Editor's pick: Originally published June 23.
Broadcasters expecting a bump in political advertising revenue from the Donald Trump campaign for president may have been dismayed to learn this week that his campaign coffers aren't exactly overflowing.
The presumptive Republican nominee raised eyebrows when Federal Election Commission filings revealed his presidential campaign doesn't have much money. The Trump camp ended the month of May with $1.3 million on hand; rival Hillary Clinton's campaign ended the period with $42.5 million. Even Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, candidates no longer in the race, have more in their campaign piggy banks than Trump.
The businessman raised just $3.1 million from donors during the month of May, with an additional $2.2 million coming in by way of a loan from Trump himself. He trimmed spending to $6.7 million from $9.4 million in April, but the cash he doled out wasn't exactly going to traditional forms of political advertising and outreach.
Call him "low-budget Trump."
Many of his biggest expenditures were on entities and items bearing his name -- his private jet, his resorts and facilities, his winery -- and, of course, his famed "Make America Great Again" hats. Spending on more traditional items like paid media campaigns, staffing, fundraising was limited. He spent more money on hats than on advertising of any form, according to reports.
"It should set off alarm bells all across the Trump operation," said Doug Thornell, managing director of Washington, D.C.-based Democratic consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker.
You might think that it would also sound the alarms among television broadcasters like Gray Television (GTN) - Get Report , E.W. Scripps (SSP) - Get Report and Tegna (TGNA) - Get Report as well as radio and digital players that are expected to rake in billions of political ad dollars this election cycle. But observers say that's not the case; we're still on track to see record spending on Election 2016, just probably not from Trump.
"I don't think there's going to be a shortage of money spent on broadcast, on digital, across the board," said Jon Seaton, a Republican political strategist who has worked on the George W. Bush, John McCain and Lindsey Graham presidential campaigns. "Money may migrate to races that otherwise would have been spent on the presidential."
Instead of funneling millions of dollars into the Republican presidential race, GOP donors are likely to instead focus their efforts on Congressional races and prioritize keeping the House of Representatives and the Senate in Republican control -- a task made more difficult with the volatile Trump at the top of the ticket.
Moody's Investors Service analyst Carl Salas noted that issue campaigns and gubernatorial and congressional race spending generally increases about 10%-to-20% every election cycle. Those races account for nearly two-thirds of political ad spend.
Moreover, highly-competitive Senate races in states like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin and Illinois could see an even greater than usual influx of funds and, in turn, boost ad spend, especially with a Supreme Court appointment in play.
"In terms of the amount of money raised and the amount of money expected to be funded...for the non-presidential campaigns, it's at record levels," Salas said. He still expects ad spend to surpass 2012.
He has estimated political ad spend on broadcast will reach at least $3.4 billion this election cycle, a more conservative estimate than some (ad tracking firm Borrell Associates pegs broadcast ad spend at $5.9 billion for election 2016). He believes Gray Television, E.W. Scripps, Nexstar (NXST) - Get Report , Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBGI) - Get Report , Tribune Media (TRCO) - Get Report and Tegna will be the biggest winners.
RBC Capital Markets analysts in a note Wednesday said their outlook for broadcasters this election season remains strong despite softer-than-expected second-quarter guidance and concerns over Trump's spending. Citing a conversation with Steve Lanzano, president of the Television Bureau of Advertising, analysts wrote that any uncertainty about Trump's spending should be offset by outside groups. According to data from OpenSecrets, outside groups raised $702 million through April 28, 2016, nearly three and a half times the amount raised through the same period in 2012.
"To the extent that the Republican establishment doesn't support Trump, it is expected that funds will be deployed to support Republican candidates in tight Congressional races as it becomes more imperative for them to maintain control of Congress," analysts wrote.
Lanzano has pegged political spending on TV station ads at around $3.3 billion, a 14% increase from the group's 2012 estimates.
Maria Lopez-Knowles, chief marketing officer of Hispanic-focused broadcaster Entravision (EVC) - Get Report , echoed sentiments that Trump's limited bank account is no cause for concern. "If we don't get it from the presidential races, we'll get it from the senate races," she said in an interview at TheStreet's offices in New York.
They may also get it in the presidential, just not from Trump himself. A super PAC that had supported Cruz in the primaries announced this week that it would pivot to be an anti-Clinton organization. Its deep-pocketed hedge-fund backers have promised big donors.
It is also worth noting that just because Trump may not be spending a lot on television and paid media doesn't mean rival Hillary Clinton isn't.
The presumptive Democratic nominee and her allies have reserved $117 million in television advertising from Tuesday through Election Day, according to data from ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG, reported by CNN. Trump has reserved nothing.
Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale said in a phone interview that ads from Clinton and the super PAC backing her, Priorities USA Action, are all over the airwaves in the Sunshine State. Thus far, there has been no response from Trump or the GOP. A poll Tuesday showed Clinton having an 8% lead over Trump in Florida, but even with a notable advantage, it is highly unlikely the former secretary of state will slow down.
"You get a couple touchdowns early in the game and you keep throwing the ball, because you're trying to put the other team away," said Schale. "You can't win the presidency in June, but you sure as heck can make it pretty hard for your opponent to come back."
In other words, Trump's lack of ad spend ability probably isn't keeping broadcaster execs up at night.