The toll is said to be $30M – that’s how much the major networks have lost in the act of running three prime time events for president Obama since he was sworn in as President. And the decision by Fox to skip the last one may be seized on as a precedent the next time around.
According to Hollywood Reporter, you have to go back as far as the presidency of Ronald Reagan to find a White House as hungry for prime time as Obama has proven to be in the early days of his term.
However, nobody was willing to comment for attribution, a tribute to the trouble a president can make for a network.
But the loss of $30M is trouble, too, expecially at a time when cutbacks and layoffs are the order of the day. Time is what networks sell, and it is not a renewable resource. So even if the original advertisers stick with a preempted program, they’ll bump others if and when they move to a new time slot. And a lot of them choose not to stick, as is their right. Broadcasters are the ones who get stuck.
Some suggested there wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the events were scheduled for daytime, the 7PM-8PM hour or at 11PM.
So if Obama has seriously important information to share with America, the networks will most likely be on board. But if it does not seem to be of dire consequence, some other networks may choose to follow Fox’s precedent.
RBR/TVBR observation: Maybe Congress could establish a network compensation fund as part of the White House general fund. A daypart-based rate card could be established that would instruct the White House in balancing the importance of the message in relation to the amount left in the fund. However, it would be almost a sure bet that the party not in power would filibuster the living daylights out of such a bill.