NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
The one sure winner in California's unprecedented gubernatorial recall election is the state's television stations.
With Gov. Gray Davis set to fight the effort to remove him from office, and several wealthy candidates -- including actor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- all competing to replace Davis should voters recall the Democratic governor, tens of millions of dollars in additional ad spending are about to rain down on television stations.
"I'm sure there's a lot of sales managers smiling big smiles this morning," said media analyst Jack Myers, author of the Jack Myers Report that tracks advertising spending. "It could send spot prices up 20 percent over expected rates and it could bring in anywhere between a low of $30 million to a high in the 70's of incremental ad spending."
That would still be less than the $110 million to $120 million spent on the governor's primary and general elections last year, but this election will take place relatively quickly -- on Oct. 7. Myers said that with the ad market already improving, there is limited inventory available for the candidates to buy all the television time they would want.
Trouble for other advertisers
Mary Barnas, director of local broadcast for Carat USA, which buys ad time on behalf of clients, said she's hearing the candidates could end up spending $100 million in an already tight advertising market.
"Arnold is looking at $10 million," Barnas said. "[Democratic Lt. Gov.] Cruz [Bustamante] is probably looking at another $10 million. [Former Republican gubernatorial candidate William] Simon has been requesting rates. And Davis has been telling stations he'll match spending by the other candidates. This could be huge, especially for just one market, for a short period of time."
Barnas said that the media blitz could cause problems for other types of local advertisers, such as car dealers and retailers, who could find their spots bumped by the higher-paying political ads.
"The market is already close to sold out without the political money," she said. "That [bumping other commercials] is the game they play when it gets tight. This could get really ugly."
Different kind of campaign
Political science experts said the nature of the election could spur one of the most intense television ad campaigns ever seen in politics. Voters will decide whether to recall Davis, re-elected in 2002, and who among many candidates will replace him should the recall effort succeed.
Challengers will be trying to cut through the clutter to get their message across and they won't have a lot of time to build on-the-ground political operations to get out the vote.
"You're going to get a blizzard of ads on TV for the period of one to two months," University of Pennsylvania professor Nathaniel Persily said. "The amount of spending per day will be astronomical."
Persily said he wouldn't be shocked if television spending during the two months approaches the amount spent for last year's regular election, despite the short time frame. He said since there could be so many well-financed campaigns competing with one another, the election could spur spending in a way not seen in a typical election cycle.
"If you have three candidates who can spend $10 million or $20 million, it'll lead to an arms race that you wouldn't have if you had only one or two who could spend that amount," he said.