When President Barack Obama commandeers the airwaves next Wednesday, he’s hoping Americans will feel better about the direction of the nation. But networks will be left tabulating the misdirection of their bank accounts. The occasion will be his 100th day in office. But with Obama, a chance to talk to the nation looks like it will be occasion enough, a marked change from the equally-unusual reticence of his predecessor George W. Bush.
The particular misfortune for the networks this time around is that the event will occur just as May sweeps are kicking into high gear (even though it won’t quite be May yet). The Washington Post believes between $9M-$10M will be lost if the regularly scheduled programming has to be cancelled or postponed. WaPo says this will be the fourth such event in Obama’s first three months in office.
It also notes that the networks perhaps should have counted to 100 and scheduled accordingly, anticipating the possibility of an Obama presser to help guide the press ruminations on this artificial presidency benchmark. On this count, if there were an ESP award to be given, it would go to NBC – it already had a rerun plugged into this slot in the schedule.
RBR/TVBR observation: If it can be shown that a president is making use of the airwaves for truly trivial reasons, the networks can occasionally get away with the cold shoulder. But if it is not obvious, refusing to run with a presidential event will only strengthen the barking from the watchdog community about the airwaves belonging to the people and who do the networks think they are anyway?
It’s a no-win situation, and about all the networks can really do is put the president on the tube and try to make the most of it. Right now losing up to $10M is a lot of cash and this is not counting the local aspect of money lost.
It is difficult enough to get advertisers on board no less keep them happy. But dumping for another speech just is not worth it. We say let local make the decision if they want to carry the speech. Networks stay with your programming. And if the dogs bark ask them for the lost $10M.