August 27, 2008

Democratic Convention Coverage Runs the Media Gamut


If you want to catch an hour of Democratic speeches and a little pundit analysis this week, tune into broadcast network TV -- that's KOB Channel 4, KOAT Channel 7 and KRQE Channel 13 locally -- Monday through Thursday between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. MDT.

If you're more of a political junkie and want to watch hours on end of convention coverage, tune into your favorite cable news station virtually any time of day or night this week.

And if you just want to hear comics poke fun of the whole extravaganza, tune into The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which will be in Denver Monday through Thursday.

But if you're looking for convention coverage and you don't have cable, PBS will offer three hours a night of convention coverage beginning at 6 p.m. Monday. (Locally that's KNME, Channel 5.)

"Anyone who's really interested can go to the (cable networks)," said Larry Sabato, director of The University of Virginia's Center for Politics in an interview last week. "They'll have it on all day and probably all night. I don't even watch it that much."

Ever since the parties ceased to actually choose their nominees at their conventions, broadcast network viewership of these events has fallen.

According to a 2004 article on Poynter Online (a news media industry publication), "In 2000, network ratings for the conventions dropped. On the opening night of that convention, NBC ran a rerun of Third Watch and drew nearly twice as many viewers as those who watched ABC's convention coverage."

In 2000, according to Nielsen Media Research, the combined Democratic Convention viewership of ABC, CBS and NBC was about 17.2 million. But in 2004, that number fell to 13.8 million.

However, cable news viewership rose dramatically from 2000 to 2004. The combined viewership of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC of the Democratic Convention was 3.4 million in 2000 and 5 million in 2004.

All three major cable news have been hyping their upcoming convention coverage. CNN has proclaimed itself to be "the best political team on television." MSNBC is "the place for politics," while Fox News is "America's Election HQ."

Though the networks have allotted only one hour on Thursday and that of Republican John McCain on Sept. 4 will go well over the 9 p.m. cutoff -- but the networks probably will relent and air both complete speeches. The nominee's speech always is the most watched event of a convention, he said.

"There's only two things that anyone remembers from conventions," Sabato said. "People get to know the vice-presidential nominee, and they listen to the presidential acceptance speech. All the other stuff is forgotten within 48 to 72 hours."

Contact Steve Terrell at 986-3037 or [email protected]

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