Campaigns and committees are expected to spend billions of dollars on television advertising this year, but not all broadcasters are made alike, nor are all guaranteed winners.
Election 2016 is expected to produce record political ad spend -- and that's including the billions of dollars presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is getting in free earned media. Analysts say that nearly $12 billion might be spent by campaigns, committees and super PACs to convince Americans who to vote for come November. And it's not going to be pretty, either.
"Already it feels like one of the ugliest presidential campaigns in modern history. But while mudslinging might not be a great thing for the Republic, it's unquestionably fabulous for the companies that can sell airtime to the campaigns and their associated super PACs," said Jim Cramer, co-founder of TheStreet, in a Monday episode of "Mad Money."
At surface level, Nexstar appears poised to take a bit bite out of the political ad spend pie. It currently owns, operates or provides services to 115 television stations and 36 related digital multicasts across 62 markets. And if its $4.6 billion acquisition of Media General (MEG) goes through, it will have 161 full-power television stations in nearly 100 markets, reaching 39% of the country.
But there's a catch: the deal hasn't been getting a ton of love from regulators. Nexstar has been selling off stations in order to make it more palatable, including Monday's announcement that it would divest five stations in five markets for $115 million, but there are no guarantees it will go through.
"If the Media General deal goes through in time, then Nexstar will have tremendous scale, allowing them to capitalize on the flood of political ad spending we're likely to see in this particular election cycle," said Cramer. "However, it's a gamble as to whether they can get the deal done in time. And frankly, we can't be sure the deals going to happen at all, given as recently as last month the FCC was expressing some concerns about the transaction."
While Nexstar could be a good idea, it might be too much of a wildcard given the uncertainties surrounding the Media General merger.
Entravision, which is largely focused on Hispanic and Spanish-speaking audiences, could also miss out on a profit bump this election cycle. The reason: the "Trump effect."
The Santa Monica, California-based company owns 56 television stations and is the largest affiliate for both Univision and UniMás. It has 49 primarily Spanish-language radio stations, and its digital business, Pulpo, is the No. 1 ranked online ad platform for reaching Hispanics.
Any other year, it would be poised to be a major player in helping campaigns reach highly-coveted Hispanic audiences. But given that Trump's anti-Latino rhetoric on the campaign trail, including calling Mexican immigrants "killers and rapists" and questioning a judge's ability to perform his job because of his "Mexican heritage" -- in 2016 that might not be the case.
"If anybody else had won the Republican nomination, I'd be telling you that Entravision was a fabulous way to play the election, because the Latino demographic is becoming incredibly important in the American political environment, especially at the presidential level," said Cramer. "Whether you love Trump or hate him, I think anyone can admit that he doesn't seem particularly interested in courting the Hispanic vote. So I doubt we're going to see the Trump and Clinton camp getting into a bidding war for advertising on any of Entravision's Univision affiliates, which means this is not Entravision's year."
Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's super PAC, Priorities USA Action, does have Hispanics as part of its game plan, though its approach is more focused on radio and digital.