If borne out, that would present a potential windfall for platforms such as YouTube and Hulu as well as myriad video-ad networks.
Mixpo Senior Product Manager Matthew Feeney said the firm based the "demand" part of the equation on Borrell Associates' recent projections for campaign spending in 2012. Borrell predicted that $35.1 million would be spent on streaming online video throughout the election cycle (still a drop in the bucket compared with the $5.64 billion predicted for broadcast TV). Supply was gauged using ComScore data and other industry projections for how online-video consumption is growing, along with internal data from Mixpo's partners, which include online-video ad networks like Adap.tv and BrightRoll.
The calculations for supply and demand for each state were made by looking at broadband penetration, which Mr. Feeney says is "highly correlated" to online-video consumption. Conspicuously absent are the perennial battleground states Ohio and Pennsylvania, which he said could have to do with their broadband penetration and projected supply of video ad impressions based on that .
The scarcity of inventory also is opening the door for well-capitalized super PACs to swoop in and buy up huge swaths of it with the objective of boxing opponents out, according to Mixpo CEO Anupam Gupta.
"Anecdotally we know from our partners and the advertisers we work with that prices are obviously going to go up," he said. "What we also hear is that the smarter [advertisers] are thinking about locking down the right inventory sources now, so they're not in the situation where inventory's not available and the prices are so high that it doesn't make sense for them."
Since in many cases TV inventory gets snapped up by Labor Day, it follows that online-video inventory would get tight as an alternative for placing candidates' 30-second spots. It's not necessarily an ideal alternative considering the smaller audience and the fact that online-video buys can trickle out over a course of days instead of landing like a sledgehammer, as TV ads do.
Google's Rob Saliterman, who heads up political advertising sales on the Republican side, said YouTube inventory is getting tightest in states such as Florida, Ohio and Virginia, where Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are in a dead heat. Nearly all the "reserve" inventory (which can be obtained with a minimum $35,000 buy) for some of the most-coveted audience segments that YouTube can parse out using filters such as age, gender and viewing history has been purchased for the home stretch of October and November.
"We're absolutely certain that inventory will be incredibly tight in certain states, and right now there are certain states where there is virtually no [reserve] inventory left in particular categories," Mr. Saliterman said, noting that other inventory remains available through YouTube's bidded auction.