Obama Press Conference
Most Will Carry Obama Press Conference; Time Shifted After NBC Balked
Source: James Hibberd’s The Live Feed, July 20th, 2009, Most will carry Obama press conference; time shifted after NBC balked, Retrieved July 20th, 2009 from http://www.thrfeed.com/2009/07/cbs-obama-news-conference.html
After some hesitation and a time shift, three major broadcast networks have agreed to carry Barack Obama’s latest primetime news conference.
The event was announced Friday afternoon as Obama battles to bolster congressional support for an ambitious health-care overhaul while facing dropping approval ratings.
But broadcasters are struggling with falling approval ratings of their own; Nielsen’s audience measurements show viewership in a summertime slump.
The conference will mark the president’s fourth primetime press event since he took office six months ago. Such interruptions tend to wreak havoc with network schedules and can cost millions in lost advertising.
CBS, which airs only repeats that evening, agreed early Monday to cover the conference.
But for NBC, Fox and ABC, the decision was tougher. During a summer that’s otherwise strewn with repeats, Wednesday includes all of their top-rated reality programs.
Fox declined outright to air the news conference. NBC and ABC fell into line late Monday after the White House shifted the event’s time from the previously announced 9 p.m. to the lesser-watched hour of 8 p.m.
The stakes were particularly high for NBC, which airs the most-watched show of the summer, “America’s Got Talent,” at 9 p.m. This week, the reality hit includes a heavily promoted interview with “Britain’s Got Talent” singing sensation Susan Boyle.
Sources said that NBC demonstrated reluctance to carry Obama’s news conference live. Faced with the prospect of only one or two major broadcasters — CBS and ABC — covering the event, the White House moved its start time to 8 p.m.
In response to a request for comment, a White House representative said, “In speaking with various media outlets, we found that rescheduling for one hour earlier would help us to arrange for as many Americans as possible to hear directly from the President at the press conference.”
NBC normally airs “Talent” repeats in the 8 p.m. hour; that will be pre-empted this week.
ABC News often has the highest-rated coverage of Obama’s primetime events and ABC was leaning toward carrying the conference all day. In one respect, the shift to 8 p.m. could make their night more tricky. ABC’s highest-rated reality show, “Wipeout,” will be pushed to 9 p.m. to face “America’s Got Talent” along with “So You Think You Can Dance,” with “I Survived a Japanese Game Show” moved to 10 p.m. The ABC News special “Over a Barrel: The Truth About Oil,” originally slated for 10 p.m. Wednesday, will air Friday as a special edition of “20/20.”
Fox airs its top-rated two-hour “So You Think You Can Dance” on Wednesday nights and will direct viewers to Fox News for the news conference.
This is the second time Fox has ruled against covering an Obama press conference, a move the network has made in the past when the event’s purpose seemed less than urgent.