Analysis of TV advertising for midterm elections 

Key Takeaways




Cable leads in time spent with voters over broadcast and premium networks, report finds.

Analysis of TV advertising for midterm elections shows that using data-driven tools
diversifying networks and dayparts, and advertising early and often correlated to higher win rates.

NEW YORK – August 5, 2019 – Today, Comcast Spotlight, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, released findings from an analysis of political TV advertising for the 2018 midterm elections that looked at campaign win rates in relation to media tactics. Chief among the findings: Cable leads in time spent with voters over broadcast and premium networks.

Historically, political campaigns have taken the traditional TV advertising approach of buying commercial time during primetime shows and news programming. Comcast Spotlight’s research shows that even moderate changes in advertising strategies, particularly in today’s New TV environment, corresponded to higher candidate win rates.

Today, data and smarter advertising tools enable advertisers to create more efficient schedules that reach the audiences that can sway an election. This approach helps achieve broad reach while minimizing ad waste.

The report, Winning TV Strategies, delves into the strategies behind successful political campaigns, including the confluence of more content, greater access for consumers and data to help advertisers reach audiences.

Lessons from the 2018 midterms suggest following the following four data-led strategies:

  1. Diversify Networks
    • Target audiences are watching more than news and live programming. Winning candidates tended to advertise beyond local and cable news, and included a variety of other popular networks like FX, BET, TNT and HGTV in their schedules.
    • Maximize reach by limiting the amount of ads on your top 3 networks. Winning candidates aired only 28% of their ads on their top 3 networks. Those who lost aired 37% of their ads on their top 3. This denser concentration of ads can limit advertisers’ unique reach.
    • More networks influence stronger campaign results. Federal candidates who won their general elections advertised on an average of 12% more networks.
  1. Diversify Dayparts
    • Running ads at different times of the day can also help maximize reach. Only 33% of cable TV viewing in local markets is done during traditional primetime hours, meaning advertisers would miss 67% of viewing by limiting schedules to this daypart.
  1. Advertising Earlier in Campaign Cycle Correlated to Higher Win Rates
    Comcast Spotlight recommends political advertisers balance their resources by advertising early enough to sway undecided voters and build name recognition, but continuing to run ads long enough to win late deciders. That said, the research shows clear advantages to beginning campaigns earlier:
    • On average, candidates who won their elections advertised for 11 weeks, while those who lost advertised for 9 weeks.
    • Of candidates who began advertising in March or earlier, a full two-thirds won their elections.
  1. Higher TV Spending Correlated to Higher Win Rates
    While multiple media planning decisions can influence campaign outcomes, when TV spend is isolated, Comcast Spotlight found higher spend correlated to higher win rates.
    • Among 412 federal candidates, overall average spend with Comcast Spotlight was $266,000; of these candidates, the 266 who won their primaries spent an average of $347,000.
    • Of those who advanced to the general election, the 151 winners spent over one-third more than those who lost their races: $399,000 compared to $290,000.

“The 2018 U.S. elections were one of the most anticipated midterms in decades. To break through the crowded field and reach voters in this evolving media landscape, candidates had to employ especially strategic advertising campaigns,” said Dan Sinagoga, vice president of political sales, Comcast Spotlight. “Key among our findings was the fact that TV remains a powerful tool for helping candidates win elections.”

*Source: Comcast viewership data, Q1 2019, as of 07/16/2019.

About Comcast Spotlight

Comcast Spotlight, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, helps put the power of cable to use for local, regional and national advertisers. It is focused on providing multi-screen marketing solutions to reach audiences most effectively and efficiently. Headquartered in New York with offices throughout the country, Comcast Spotlight has a presence in 67 markets with nearly 35 million owned and represented subscribers. For more information, visit

Media Contact:

Elaine Wong, 929-388-9098






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