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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gary Tuchman and Last Week's CNN Ratings

I came across a wonderful review of a speech Gary Tuchman gave to the journalism students of Sam Huston State University in 2003. I believe excerpts may have been printed at ATC before but I don't ever recall reading the hilarious story that Tuchman told about a press conference he covered in the mid 1990's.

" One of the things we do is we have big news conferences where we go live and introduce the news conference. Sometimes we have to 'tap dance', which is talking until the conference starts," Tuchman said. "Ten years ago Fidel Castro's daughter defected to the United States, and she settled in Columbus, Ga. She was having a news conference there, with the news conference starting at noon sharp.
"I got there and they tell me, 'OK, Gary, you're going to give a live report at 12 noon, and if the news conference has already started we're just going to go right to the news conference live from CNN, and if not, tap dance until it starts'," he said.
Thirty seconds before the conference was scheduled to begin he began introducing her, expecting her to come out. When she didn't, he began giving general information about the daughter and why she left Cuba.
"Now it's like seven minutes (of 'tap dancing')," he said. "The anchor says, 'Gary, keep going because we're afraid that if you toss it back to me and we go to commercial the news cast will start and we'll miss it, and this is a big story."
So he gave more general information about Castro and Cuba.
"I'm talking and talking, and the thing's not starting. Now it's 20 minutes, and I'm running out of things to say," he said. "Finally, we give up, and I throw back to the anchor; we go a commercial. And sure enough, the second the commercial starts, she comes out, they start the press conference, and we miss the beginning of it. I was really upset.
"After the news conference is over, I asked her, 'How come you didn't start it like you told me? It created a hardship for us'," Tuchman said. "She (Castro's daughter) goes, 'Oh, Gary, we were in the back of the room watching CNN, and we didn't want to interrupt you. So when you went to a commercial, we came out.' We learned a lesson from that. We now tell people to start the press conference whenever they're ready."

To read the entire article just follow the link. Enjoy ~ Phebe


With this political season, regular programming on the cable news channels and the importance of it is beginning to be lost on all of the special programming starting to invade the primetime schedules. It is raising all cable audiences, but last week, CNN had quite a bit of good news. We’ll look at the Tuesday (Jan. 8) primary coverage as well as the regular week’s programming. Fox News did well with their Republican Debate Thursday (Jan. 10) but ranks as the 5th most popular debate for the debate season which started April, 2007. CNN is still the top ranking cable channel with its YOUTUBE debate from Nov. 28, 2007 (ranked 3rd) and a Democratic debate Nov. 15, 2007 (ranked 4th). Only ABC, a broadcast network, has higher debate audiences with its combination Democratic/Republican debate held Jan. 5, 2008 which CNN rebroadcast.
We’ll first get into last week, then the Primary coverage and finally a brief look at 60 MINUTES. 8PM:
Fox News: 580,000*
CNN: 307,000**
MSNBC: 363,000*

All these audience figures do not include the debate which aired on Fox News Thursday or the Primary coverage airing on Tuesday. So you’re going to see a lot of asterisks to qualify the week’s regular programming. As usual, Bill O’Reilly took the time period – but let’s keep in mind, his 55+ audience FAR outweighs what he even does in the Adults 25-54 key demographic which is what we show. This will be the last week of the respectable showing OUT IN THE OPEN had with its 8PM substitute anchor, Rick Sanchez. COUNTDOWN had a very strong week with audiences up over around 100,000 from previous holiday influenced weeks.

Fox News: 469,000***
CNN: 323,000*
MSNBC: 175,000+

Many pre-emptions this week as the debate and the extensive primary coverage kicked in, in a big way with this hour. HANNITY & COMLES only aired three times this week, so it is a very large bounce back for them from the holidays. LKL’s numbers were also up from low performances from the last couple of weeks, but not enough to beat Fox. Dan Abrams only aired three days with minimal impact in the time period.

Fox News: 453,000***
CNN: 376,000++
MSNBC: 231,000#

Now here’s where it can get interesting. On primary night (Tuesday) AC360 was coded as an AC360, but in fact it was primary coverage. I eliminated the evening from the regular programming average because all anchors along with contributors were present and it was no different than the rest of the night’s election coverage. In fact, CNN stayed live until 1AM EST as did MSNBC. So if I put the primary coverage audience back in, AC360 beats GRETA – 598,000 to GRETA’s 453,000. I’ll let you decide on that call. MSNBC “docblock” performed average numbers in this time period, excluding the primary coverage and the special edition of COUNTDOWN they aired on Wednesday with day after, primary analysis.

Just a side note – Fox News did air a Republican Debate Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008. It came in ranking 5th of all debates since April, 2007 and affected regular program performance on CNN and MSNBC.

Primetime 8P-11PM; Adults 25-54 and Total Audience 2+: ^
Fox News: 901,000 3,068,000
CNN: 1,358,00 3,298,000
MSNBC: 701,000 ` 1,441,000

Yes, CNN took primetime by excellent margins this night. CNN outdelivered Fox News’s Adults 25-54 audience by 51% and MSNBC’s by 94%. In Total Audience 2+, CNN beat Fox News by +7% and beat MSNBC by +17%. Well done, but I’m not saying the phrase that “shall not be named”….we’ve heard it enough, and it’s only January.

CNN was live until 1AM and also soundly beat FOX News in re-run at 11PM and 12MD in both audiences and also beat MSNBC at 11PM and 12MD even though they were live – also by substantial amount of viewers.

CNN also had the strongest audience delivery in other demographics 8PM – 1AM for Adults 18-34 and Adults 18-49. These are not demographics which are news programming strength, so to be posting strong performances with these ages shows the interest and appeal of the night.

*4 night program average; excludes Tuesday Primary audience.
**4 night time period average; excludes Tuesday Primary audience.
***3 night program average; excludes Tuesday Primary and Thursday Debate audience.
+ 3 night program average; excludes Tuesday Primary; does not air (DNA) Fridays.
++ 4 night program average; excludes Tuesday Primary.
#3 night program average; excludes Tuesday Primary and special COUNTDOWN on Wednesday.
^Courtesy, Nielsen Media Research; Adults 25-54 and Total Audience 2+, Live + Same Day (LS), Fast Track Nationals.

Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll see you next week. Yes, ratings analysis is just going to get more complicated as channels schedule more debates and primary coverage – but it is fresh programming in the midst of a writer’s strike and cable is benefiting.

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1 comment:

Cyn said...

Poor Gary, that is just TOO funny! What a great story!