All three broadcast networks are producing hourlong editions of their flagship newscasts on Monday, the eve of the groundbreaking, high-stakes national election.
At last count on Friday, it appeared the rare second half-hour would be carried by significant numbers of local stations, even though clearance is optional and will mean displacing heavily promoted syndicated entertainment staples during a high-stakes sweeps week.
“The whole week will be thrown off,” said Bill Carroll, Katz Television Group’s VP and director of programming.
Making it more attractive for local stations to move their syndicated half-hours to less-watched time slots that may invoke make-goods is the fact that CBS—the first to announce its expansion plan—ABC and NBC will allow local stations to keep all the advertising time in the second half-hour.
Unusually high viewer interest in political events and candidates has been so underscored by ratings spikes that the syndicated entertainment magazine shows have competed for and heavily promoted interviews with the candidates and their families.
Mr. Carroll pointed to last week’s pricy informercial produced by Democrat Barack Obama’s campaign and run across seven broadcast and cable networks at the same time in road-block style, drawing an audience estimated at 33.5 million viewers by Nielsen Media Research.
“The numbers were pretty substantial,” Mr. Carroll said. “Roughly a quarter of the country saw that.”
ABC News, for one, plans to use Monday’s “World News” to preview some of the “killer apps” developed for its nightlong election coverage Tuesday. Charles Gibson will anchor from the election set built at “Good Morning America’s” Times Square studio, where he, George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer will be stationed Tuesday.
In addition to Mr. Gibson using the interactive multi-touch wall that will display a variety of information Tuesday night, and the election-related stories and portions of candidate interviews conducted last week, Monday’s “World News” also will preview the way ABC News graphics will be displayed across huge outdoor screens in Times Square as election returns come in the following night.
Although the numbers may well continue to rise, the hourlong “Nightly News” had secured clearance in 30 of the top 40 markets; CBS was hoping for clearance in 60% of the country for its Monday night “Evening News”; and an estimate was not available from ABC. Of course, it’s a given that the stations owned and operated by the networks will carry the expanded flagship shows, which guarantees exposure in major markets, many of them in battleground states.