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Map of U.S. television media markets, broken down by county

Map of TV media markets for the continental U.S., from

Campaign advertising has already reached avalanche levels this year, but where are ads piling up the deepest? The Washington Post's Reid Wilson has compiled a list of the five media markets that have seen the most ad spending in the first half of the year, and the surprise at the top is Denver. That's thanks to not only to Colorado's competitive Senate race but also the hotly contested battle for the state's 6th Congressional District. (Wilson's figures includes future ad reservations as well.)

Denver is followed by Tampa—mostly because of the adpocalypse related to the 13th District special election earlier this year—then Detroit, Anchorage and Little Rock, all of which are in states with top Senate races. Wilson's rankings are based on the total number of dollars, though; if you factor in how expensive each market is, the thickest ad density has to be in dirt-cheap Anchorage, not populous-and-pricey Denver.

Indeed, the world of media buying is an arcane and complicated one, even when thinking about statewide races, and even more so when thinking about what markets overlap which congressional districts. To help make that a little easier, we've created a helpful guide that you'll want to bookmark.

Our database details which media markets are found in each state and each district as well as the reverse—that is, which states and districts are found in each market. We also go one step further, breaking everything down by percentage. Just as an example, now you can know that all of Alabama's 1st District is in the Mobile market, but the larger Mobile market is almost evenly split between Alabama's 1st and Florida's 1st, just over the border. (Mobile's market also encompasses little bits and pieces of three other districts.)

There are a few other details to be aware of. Even though it's heavily targeted with ad dollars, we don't include Alaska in our analysis, since the state's three media markets (Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau) don't have hard-and-fast boundaries the way they do in the lower 48; in fact, most of the state, geographically speaking, doesn't fall in any media market at all.

And you might observe that in Washington, D.C. isn't included in the district-to-market tab, but it is included in the market-to-district tab. That's because if you advertise for a race in state or district covered by the Washington market, you're still paying to reach those 600,000 people in D.C. proper, regardless of their disenfranchisement.

Like we said, it's complex. But if you keep our spreadsheet handy, it'll help you make sense of all the political advertising destined to come our way this year.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 12:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Um, Amarillo is in the Panhandle of Texas, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    purplepenlady, GrindtheHills

    not NM.


    I would rather spend my life searching for truth than live a single day within the comfort of a lie. ~ John Victor Ramses

    by KayCeSF on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 01:02:55 PM PDT

    •  The media market crosses into New Mexico (0+ / 0-)

      About 80 percent is in Texas, but 15 percent goes into New Mexico.

      Contributing Editor, Daily Kos Elections. 24, male, CA-18 (home and voting there), LA-02 (resident).

      by Jeff Singer on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 02:02:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  May be true about the media market, but (0+ / 0-)

        Amarillo should be listed under Texas as the state.  It is not in NM.  Unless I'm missing something from that list of cities on that list, every other city listed is identified by the correct state.  Nevertheless, as a New Mexican, I looked up NM and found "Amarillo, NM" and thought it was a mistaken identification.  

        I would rather spend my life searching for truth than live a single day within the comfort of a lie. ~ John Victor Ramses

        by KayCeSF on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 02:31:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The media markets are listed under any state (0+ / 0-)

          that they're in. Since some of New Mexico is in the Amarillo market, its listed under New Mexico as well as Texas and any other state it crosses.

          For another example of this, look at New Jersey. Both Philadelphia and New York are listed under it, even though both cities are in other states. Both are also listed in several other states beyond New York and Pennsylvania.

          Contributing Editor, Daily Kos Elections. 24, male, CA-18 (home and voting there), LA-02 (resident).

          by Jeff Singer on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 02:51:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If you look (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          at the map above, that light blue (teal? aquamarine?) blob is the Amarillo market, but you'll notice that it strays outside the Texas state lines, to also include five counties in NE New Mexico, and the three counties that comprise the Oklahoma panhandle. So, yes, small percentages of New Mexico and Oklahoma are in the Amarillo market, and if, say, you were running statewide in New Mexico, mostly you'd advertise in the Albuquerque market, but if you wanted to make sure that people in Clovis and Tucumcari saw your ad, you'd want to buy time in the Amarillo market too. (Although, unfortunately, you'd be spending a lot of money putting your ad mostly in front of people who live in Amarillo and couldn't care less about your New Mexico race.)

          (Oddly, the map also includes one sad little county in the SW corner of Kansas (Morton Co., pop. approx. 3,000) in the Amarillo market, so bear in mind the map isn't perfectly accurate compared with the more recent 2010 FCC data I used to compile the spreadsheet.)

          Editor, Daily Kos Elections.

          by David Jarman on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 07:52:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Needs a color guide. (3+ / 0-)
    •  No Hawai'i (0+ / 0-)

      Why do we always get left out?

      And, yeah, need a list of which color means what.

      Enjoying the Age of Aquarius so far?

      by sendtheasteroid on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 01:46:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Each block (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        of color is a separate media market; it's just a graphic we grabbed off the web that looks like some random nerd made by hand (there are very few media market maps out there... Nielsen doesn't publish them, and they're very protective of that data), but I assume whoever made it just chose colors based on not having two markets next to each other being the same color.

        A legend probably wouldn't be too useful because the colors get repeated so many times; for instance, on this map, light pink could mean Medford, Santa Barbara, San Angelo, Rapid City, Quincy, Montgomery, Charlotte, Lexington, Harrisonburg, or Albany!

        Editor, Daily Kos Elections.

        by David Jarman on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 07:41:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mahalo (0+ / 0-)

          I've never been good at reading charts and graphs---seems to be a brain deficiency.  I try to make sense such things, but my brain just goes BOING! and stops working.

          Happy to hear this chart wasn't meant to be studied in depth. Will stop blaming myself.

          Enjoying the Age of Aquarius so far?

          by sendtheasteroid on Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 01:01:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Also a gubernatorial race (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and the Republicans will spend a lot of money because they think Beauprez can beat Hickenlooper this year.  The Democrats will spend almost all their money in the Denver market--plus Pueblo--the Democratic base.

    •  I should have (0+ / 0-)

      read before posting. :)

      I don't know what's worse, the getting older or the getting wiser. -- G. Callen.

      by OLinda on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 01:19:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If an ad runs 20 times, and no one is looking (0+ / 0-)

      is it worth the $$$$?

      Television no longer dominates the American consciousness like it used to.  The 'MSM' barely registers with younger people.

      The old strategy of advertising on TV may be played out. I've noticed the quality of ads has dropped down to 'phone it in' level.

      Which begs the question if money may be losing its influence.

      Political debate has moved from Sunday morning to the web.  Let's move the politicians, as well.

      Live chats, UTube and blogs.  Cut out the sizzle and marketing and make them talk directly to us.  That would cull out the clueless candidates quickly.

      You can have freedom or ignorance. Never both. - me

      by nolagrl on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 03:43:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Holy cow thats a lot of info. (0+ / 0-)

    I hope experts can see trends and demographics. What does it all mean?

    A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

    by onionjim on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 01:17:53 PM PDT

  •  Denver (0+ / 0-)

    also has Governor race.

    I don't know what's worse, the getting older or the getting wiser. -- G. Callen.

    by OLinda on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 01:18:44 PM PDT

  •  The graphic is interesting; I'm assuming (0+ / 0-)

    there's no relationship between areas, like from one yellow to another for example? Kinda looks like one of The Onion's graphics.

  •  DVRs and cord cutters (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluenick, profewalt

    Sources (Google them yourself) say that DVR penetration is close to 50% of households while a good number of homes have ditched traditional TV all together.  I submit to you then that these groups are spending more money on a smaller audience.  

    Due to my DVR and Netflix, its been at least two election cycles since I have seen any election ads.

  •  Of course... (0+ / 0-)

    While all this info is great, it doesn't always tell the whole story.

    For example, the smallish Jackson, TN, media market only includes a local ABC affiliate and a local Fox affiliate.  CBS and NBC affiliates are picked up from Memphis and/or Nashville (I can't remember; I seem to remember there was a time when cable in Jackson picked up both of them.)  For all intents and purposes Jackson is really a part of the Memphis media market.

    30, white male, TX-07 (current), TN-09 (born), TN-08 (where parents live now)

    by TDDVandy on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 01:57:31 PM PDT

  •  The percentages for AZ-01 (0+ / 0-)

    add up to more than 100.

    (-8.38, -4.72), CT-02 (home), ME-01 (college) "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." -Spock

    by ProudNewEnglander on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 02:19:36 PM PDT

  •  This is what I used to do for a living (0+ / 0-)

    when I worked in advertising. Admittedly, I was doing this for products like 7Up, Anacin and Bank of America (the REAL one, not NBNC DBA B of A), but it's the same - figuring out which markets provided the bets return for an advertiser's dollar. I was interested in sales, and, frankly, once an ad tries to get votes, it's making a sale.

    It's not that complicated. When you say TV Market it's understood that you're talking about a system that assigners each county in the United States to one -- and only one -- market, the one with the stations that account for a plurality of the county's viewing. if you look at those periwinkle-colored counties in Colorado that constitute the Denver market, for instance, you'll notice that when you look north at Wyoming you'll see two counties that are part of the Denver market and are not contiguous to the other counties that make up this market.

    I can explain this further in a diary if DKElections wants me to.

    All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 04:05:04 PM PDT

  •  NOT the continental US (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Your map shows the contiguous US.  Also the money being spent by Rove & The Koch Bros. in Alaska over the Senate is mindboggling.  If you have any extra $ to send to Mark Begich, please support him:

  •  NH partitioned by Boston, Portland ME & Burlington (0+ / 0-)

    markets suggests that one way to make New Hampshire more Democratic is by more issues ad spending by Democrats in:

    •    MA (Senator Warren, etc.),

    •    VT (Senator Sanders, etc.) and

    •    ME (Candidates Michaud, Bellows, etc.)

    This is another good reason to make contributions to these Democrats, and

    to help ME-Sen candidate Bellows stay on the air with her great introductory ad showing that she is everything New England Republican candidates are not, linked in this Dkos comment.

  •  Poor Wyoming (0+ / 0-)

    They have to suffer listening to all these ads for South Dakota, Montana, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho.  They get to watch other candidates in other states debate issues instead of people for their own offices.

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