Monday, January 29, 2007

15,000 media expected

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

On one hand the press says conventions are boring. On the other hand, 15,000 media are expected in Denver to cover the 2008 Democratic Convention:

While Denver almost certainly will get a flattering closeup, don't expect scads of exposure on the broadcast networks. The political conventions are increasingly covered online and by cable news networks as the major broadcast networks scale back the primetime hours devoted to what amount to political infomercials.

In 1976, the networks carried 26 hours of coverage. In 2004, citing low ratings for past conventions, ABC, CBS and NBC devoted only three hours of coverage to the two major party conventions (one hour a night for three nights, skipping entirely the night Barack Obama made his now famous speech).

The ratings for the broadcast networks declined from a combined total of 17.6 million viewers in 2000 to 13.4 million in 2004. Political-minded viewers go elsewhere: cable news networks and PBS reported audience gains from 2000.


[But] as the Big Three allot fewer hours, online pundits have taken up the slack.

David Bohrman, CNN's Washington bureau chief, said "'08 will see whatever the next step of convention coverage is going to be. In '84 when I ran floor coverage for ABC, the quotes were about the networks as dinosaurs, CNN was an upstart. For the 2000 conventions I ran an Internet company that was ahead of its time. The story of how the coverage is evolving is done every four years and it's valid every four years."

There probably won't be much difference in coverage than in 2004. There were so many stories done on bloggers at the 2004 convention, I can't believe it will be an interesting topic in 2008. Maybe YouTube videos of the demonstrations?


Matt Pizzuti said...

Conventions have been increasingly boring over the years for clear reasons, but there are certain things that could bring them a substantial boost in interest, and thus, viewership.

First, since both parties have open fields on their nominations right now, the process of nominating candidates could be more interesting and thus have more public attention. Of course it's almost certain that the nominated candidate for each party will be clearly chosen long before the convention. Still, if the contest for nomination turns out to be very close for either party, the nominating convention could be a curiosity. Networks are required to give equal coverage to each convention, so if even just one party's race looks interesting, both will receive a boost in coverage.

Next, the 2004 candidates, for a number of Americans, were a choice between the lesser of two evils. Bush was old news - after 4 years hearing him bumble speech after speech, nobody really needed to hear him talk again. He was a Republican president in a government dominated by Republicans. On the other side of the aisle: listening John Kerry, as Margaret Cho would put it, is like talking to an ent (one of the talking trees) from Lord of the Rings; regardless of whether you like him or not, I think there is a general consensus that he was not the most lively speaker.

If Obama is the Democratic candidate, I expect the convention to be a big deal for networks. If Hillary is the Democratic candidate, even she might be someone people would want to tune in to, since it would be the first time in U.S. history for a woman to be nominated by either party. Alternately, if Rudy Giuliani is the nominated candidate for Republicans, the conventions could get extra hours of coverage since he is known to be an excellent speaker, and such a moderate candidate would be a big deal.

If the war in Iraq is still a major issue in 2008, everyone will want to know what both parties have to say about it - but they'll listen to the Democrats most of all, because if the war actually is still going on, the Democrats have the 2008 presidency pretty much locked down, and it will be that candidate who determines what happens.

Of course, people living in Colorado will tune in to the Democratic convention just because it's happening in their home state, and I imagine that many people living in the Mountain States will be more interested than New Yorkers and other coastal residents were in 2004.

I don't know if any of these things will happen, but they may. Otherwise, I think that coverage of the convention will be equal to or less than that of the conventions in 2004.