January 18, 2021

ABC’s Evening News Bests NBC in Coveted Age Group

ABC’s evening newscast, “World News With Diane Sawyer,” bested the longtime leader, “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams,” among 25- to 54-year-old viewers last week, ending a nearly five-year-long streak by NBC and renewing interest in the once-predictable ratings race.

“NBC Nightly News” remained No. 1 among total viewers, which is traditionally the bragging rights category in television. But ABC’s win is significant because television ads on news programs are bought and sold based on the coveted age group of 25- to 54-year-olds. Ms. Sawyer has been seeking to snap Mr. Williams’s streak in that category for years.

For ABC, it was a narrow victory: just 38,000 viewers ages 25 to 54 separated the two shows. Partly for that reason, people at NBC News cautioned that ABC’s evening show victory could be a one-time aberration. Last spring and summer, though, those same people saw their prized morning show “Today” fall to second place behind ABC’s “Good Morning America,” first in total viewers and then in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic. The “G.M.A.” streak is now nearly one year old.

As is the custom in these bitterly contested ratings competitions, NBC’s news release about the ratings made no mention of ABC’s gains; it simply excluded the 25- to 54-year-old viewership totals and emphasized that “Nightly News” has been winning among total viewers for years. “We are grateful for another consecutive win in total viewers and are focused on producing the best newscast for our audience,” an NBC News spokeswoman said Tuesday morning.

Among total viewers, “Nightly News,” which had an average of 7.54 million viewers last week, beat “World News” by about a quarter of a million. Among viewers ages 25 to 54, “Nightly” had about 1.88 million, 38,000 fewer than “World News.”

ABC said this was its first win since the week of Nov. 17, 2008, shortly after the election of President Obama.

The victory is shared between Ms. Sawyer, who has been the anchor of “World News” since 2009, and David Muir, one of her principal fill-ins. Last week Ms. Sawyer anchored on Monday and Tuesday while Mr. Muir anchored the rest of the week. Mr. Muir and another ABC anchor, George Stephanopoulos, are widely seen within the television industry as the two possible successors to Ms. Sawyer.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/business/media/abcs-evening-news-bests-nbc-in-coveted-age-group.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Media Equation: The Inconvenient but Vital Drone Debate

Some think not. In a report released last week by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Tara McKelvey, who has done her share of significant reporting on the issue, suggested that during Mr. Obama’s first term, “the media fell short in its coverage” of the drone program.

She applauded the increased attention to the issue, saying in a survey that coverage in five major media outlets had almost doubled since the start of that term, rising to 625 stories in 2012 from 326 in 2009.

Maybe we are asking the wrong question. Journalists at The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The New York Times and The New Yorker have done a remarkable job on pulling back the blankets on a covert program overseen by an administration that is very aggressive in protecting secrets.

If the Congress — and perhaps the public — doesn’t know about the drone program, it isn’t for lack of coverage. Perhaps the reason so many people are in the dark is because they want it that way. After all, if the bad guys are on the run without risking legions of boots on the ground, what’s not to like?

For many people, of course, there is plenty not to like. Michael Isikoff of NBC News obtained a 16-page white paper outlining when the government contends that it is legal to kill Americans who join Al Qaeda. His reporting helped make the drone issue part of the confirmation hearings, leading to this statement on Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee from Mr. Brennan, which sounded like a parody of Washington doublespeak: “What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.”

Congress, in spite of the pointed questions aimed at Mr. Brennan last week, has been remarkably incurious since the program began.

“Some 3,500 people have died in 420 strikes, and Congress has yet to hold a single public hearing on this issue,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It has happened in the dark because we have allowed it to, and the press has far and away been the lead actor in surfacing this issue.”

Back in 2009, Jane Mayer did a deep dive into the issue. “It’s important,” Ms. Mayer said in a telephone interview. “After scientists working for America split the atom, there was an awesome new technology, and they had to come up with a legal framework to contain it. Drones represent a very big change as well, and there should be a lot of open discussion about defining the rules of its use.”

Most of that discussion has occurred in the press, not in the halls of government. An article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane in The New York Times last May revealed that the administration had a “kill list” of people who were targeted for elimination, often by drones.

Last week, an article in The Times by Robert F. Worth, Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane pointed out that drones, which are held by the government to be instruments of precision, are often a blunt technology that sometimes takes out the very people the United States needs in places like Yemen.

If some of the news coming out of the hearings last week was a big surprise, it might be because people chose not to pay close attention.

“I think what you saw on Thursday,” Mr. Shane, referring to the Brennan hearings, said in a telephone interview, “is that people are beginning to realize that they have introduced this whole new way of killing people without public debate or pushback and the disaffection with the lack of oversight boiled over.”

The specifics of the drone program have been carefully shielded at every turn. In January a federal judge ruled against The New York Times in its effort to compel the Justice Department to disclose the memo that provided the legal justification for the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen who died in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, without any due process of law. (The death of an American at the other end of a drone seemed to prompt a new level of interest and scrutiny by the news media.)

Even though the judge, Colleen McMahon, ruled in the government’s favor, she did not sound very happy about it.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/11/business/media/the-inconvenient-but-vital-drone-debate.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: In Wake of Restructuring, NBC News President Quits

Steve Capus, right, with Pat Fili-Krushel, told employees in an e-mail that it was an “extremely difficult decision to walk away.”Charles Sykes/NBC Steve Capus, right, with Pat Fili-Krushel, told employees in an e-mail that it was an “extremely difficult decision to walk away.”

8:30 p.m. | Updated

The longest-serving president of any of the three network news divisions, Steve Capus of NBC News, stepped down from his position on Friday, six months after Comcast restructured its news units in a way that diminished his authority.

Pat Fili-Krushel, chairwoman of the NBCUniversal News Group, said in a brief telephone interview on Friday that she would “cast a wide net” while searching for a successor to Mr. Capus. In the interim, the leaders of the news division will report directly to her.

Ms. Fili-Krushel became Mr. Capus’s boss last July when Steve Burke, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, consolidated all of NBC’s news units — NBC News, the cable news channels MSNBC and CNBC, and its stake in the Weather Channel — under a new umbrella, the NBCUniversal News Group. Mr. Burke asked Ms. Fili-Krushel, one of his most trusted lieutenants, to run it, while keeping Mr. Capus and the heads of the other units in place.

Ms. Fili-Krushel worked early in her career at HBO and Lifetime. A veteran of the Walt Disney Company, where she helped program ABC, and  Time Warner, where she was an administrator, she is by her own admission not a journalist.  But now she is, by default, the highest-ranking woman in the American television news industry — not just at the moment, but in the history of the medium. The heads of the news divisions at ABC and CBS are men, as are the heads of the Fox News Channel, CNN, and Bloomberg.

Ms. Fili-Krushel has kept a low public profile, but has been a forceful presence behind the scenes, recently moving from her office on the 51st floor of 30 Rockefeller Center, near Mr. Burke’s, to a new one on the third floor, where NBC News is based. On Friday, she said she had spent her first six months “learning, listening and getting to know the players here.” She called the News Group an “unbelievably strong organization.”

Though Mr. Capus’s exit saddened many at NBC News on Friday, it came as little surprise. He had previously reported directly to Mr. Burke, but after the restructuring he reported to Ms. Fili-Krushel, and he made no secret of his unhappiness with the change. His contract had a clause that allowed him to leave in the event that he no longer reported to Mr. Burke, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement at NBC, and he decided to exercise that right after months of contemplation. The people insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized by the network to speak publicly.

Mr. Capus told Ms. Fili-Krushel of his intent to leave last Friday. It is likely that he would have left sooner, but a series of major news stories kept him busy late last year — including Hurricane Sandy, the presidential election and the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Mr. Capus also oversaw the network’s response to the kidnapping of Richard Engel and an NBC News crew in Syria last month.

“It has been a privilege to have spent two decades here, but it is now time to head in a new direction,” he wrote in an e-mail to staff members on Friday afternoon.

Mr. Capus guided NBC through a revolutionary time in news-gathering and distribution. He maintained the news division’s profitability, managed tensions between NBC News and its increasingly liberal cable channel MSNBC, and fostered new business ventures like an in-house production company and an annual education summit. Last year, he unwound an old deal with Microsoft to give the news division complete control over its Web site, now named NBCNews.com, for the first time.

Ms. Fili-Krushel wrote in a separate e-mail to staff members that “NBC News is America’s leading source of television news and Steve has been a big part of that success.”

NBC News is the producer of the most popular evening newscast in the country. But its single biggest source of profits, the morning show “Today,” fell to second place last year, behind ABC’s “Good Morning America,” for the first time since the 1990s. The decline caused widespread anxiety inside the news division and speculation that Mr. Capus would be relieved of his duties.

Inside NBC, both Mr. Capus and the executive producer of “Today,” Jim Bell, received much of the blame for the botched removal of Ann Curry from “Today” last June, which worsened the show’s already tenuous position in the ratings. Ms. Fili-Krushel was put in charge just a few weeks later.

Mr. Bell was replaced at “Today” last fall and is now the executive producer for NBC Olympics. Savannah Guthrie is now the co-host of “Today,” and Ms. Curry is a national and international correspondent for the network, but is rarely seen. Mr. Capus’s exit was seen by some at the network as the last shoe that had to drop.

In his e-mail to staff members, Mr. Capus called it an “extremely difficult decision to walk away,” noting that he started at NBC as a producer 20 years ago this month. He did not make any mention of what he would do next. “Journalism is, indeed, a noble calling, and I have much I hope to accomplish in the next phase of my career,” he wrote.

“Today” continues to lose to ABC’s “Good Morning America” among total viewers, but lately it has won a few weeks in the 25- to 54-year-old demographic that advertisers covet.

“NBC Nightly News” has more successfully fended off ABC’s “World News,” despite an aggressive push by ABC. Mr. Capus said, “NBC News has grown in all key metrics — from ratings and reputation to profitability.”

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/capus-head-of-nbc-news-is-departing/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Cable News Networks See Big Falloff From 2009 in Inauguration Ratings

CNN scored a big ratings win among the cable news networks covering the Inaugural events Monday, but the numbers declined significantly from four years ago for all the networks.

In terms of the cable news networks, CNN was ahead during the time when the oath of office was administered and President Obama delivered his speech, and the usual cable leader, Fox News, was well behind. That was widely expected, given the conservative political preferences of much of the Fox News audience.

For the period of the oath and the speech, CNN averaged 3.136 million viewers, with MSNBC second at 2.273 million. Fox was third with 1.316 million. CNN also dominated among the viewers that news advertisers pay to reach, those between the ages of 25 and 54. CNN had 1.107 million viewers in that group, to 706,000 for MSNBC and just 294,000 for Fox News.

For the prime-time hours, which included coverage of the inaugural balls, CNN was again well ahead, with 3.573 million viewers. Fox, which is always dominant in the 8-to-11 o’clock evening hours, trailed with 1.666 million viewers. MSNBC had even fewer, 1.365 million. But Fox was last again in the 25-54 category with just 254,000 viewers in prime time, while CNN had 1.266 million and MSNBC had 456,000.

In all cases the numbers were a huge drop-off from the same time periods in 2009. CNN was down for the period covering the oath and speech, from 8.119 million total viewers four years ago; that’s a decline of 61 percent. Four years ago Fox News had 5.291 million, meaning the falloff this year was 75 percent. And MSNBC dropped 25 per cent, from 3.022 million.

In the 25-54 group the declines were similar. CNN was off 67 percent; MNSBC dropped 37 percent and Fox News fell by 82 percent.

On the broadcast side, NBC News was an easy winner, pulling in well over one million more viewers than either of its network competitors.

For the full duration of coverage, which for NBC was 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., NBC averaged 5.081 million viewers. That topped ABC News, which averaged 3.922 million viewers and CBS News, which averaged 3.671 million.

The figures were again down sharply from what each network pulled in for the 2009 Inauguration when NBC attracted more than twice as many viewers with 10.4 million and ABC almost three times as many with 10.1 million. CBS dropped from 7 million.

But NBC News noted that its figures were better than the last second-term inauguration for George W. Bush in 2005, besting the viewer total by 20 percent. Without counting the other outlets that covered the event, such as PBS, Mr. Obama’s second Inauguration was already seen by more than three million more viewers than Mr. Bush’s second Inauguration in 2005.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/22/cable-news-networks-see-big-falloff-from-2009-in-inauguration-ratings/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Mike Emrick Calls a Girls’ 12-and-Under Game

The idea came from Brian Williams, the anchor of the “NBC Nightly News” and “Rock Center.”

“I figured, ‘What is he doing?’ ” Williams said by telephone Thursday. “He must be driving Mrs. Emrick crazy. So we approached him and said, ‘The smaller the better — would you be willing to call a kids’ game?’ ”

Emrick, NBC’s lead hockey announcer, liked the idea of calling a game without a labor dispute involved, and the girls’ game was put on his schedule on Dec. 12 in Troy, Mich., about 45 miles from his house. Williams, a fan of Emrick’s, was looking for a segment for “Rock Center,” and sent a crew to the Troy Sports Center to shoot the St. Clair Shores Saintes-Troy Lady Sting game.

Coaching the Sting was Doug Brown, a former N.H.L. player, whose daughter Lily played right wing.

Before the game, Emrick interviewed some of the girls (aged 9 to 12) and was handed a sheaf of 5×7 cards with anecdotes about some of the players that were compiled by Neal Carter, an NBC News producer.

“One wanted to be a vet and she has hermit crabs,” Emrick said. “I asked what they eat, and she said rolled-up pieces of lettuce.”

One of the girls was missing a xylophone recital to play the game, while a third said she wanted to play for the 2022 Olympic team because she had just seen the film “Miracle.”

He had also asked Mark Johnson, who coached the 2010 United States Olympic women’s hockey team, for some help.

What should he look for? Emrick asked. “A lot of smiles through wire,” Johnson told him. Also, he said, “Two or three on each team will be dominant; for that handful, the light has gone on, because they have the confidence and the skills.”

Emrick took his place at the scorer’s table — he called the game solo — where he could not see much action in the near corners.

He had another problem: the ponytails of some of the girls obscured their numbers.

He called the game, through three 15-minute periods, with his characteristic brio, and felt the joy of children enjoying the game he loves, even if he wasn’t sure how good they were. “It was a throwback to my youth, even though I didn’t play,” he said.

And Williams — whose daughter, Allison, a star of the series “Girls,” played hockey — got what he hoped for: a segment that was to be shown Thursday night at 10 on “Rock Center.

Williams said: “It’s the sweetest little piece of TV. Doc’s just magnificent.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 10, 2013

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of the NBC News producer quoted in the story. The correct spelling is Neal Carter, not Neil Carter. 

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/sports/hockey/mike-emrick-calls-a-girls-12-and-under-game.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Man Charged in Trayvon Martin’s Death Sues NBC for Defamation

George Zimmerman, shown at a hearing in April, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, 17.Gary W. Green/Reuters George Zimmerman, shown at a hearing in April, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, 17.

5:51 p.m. | Updated George Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin earlier this year, filed suit against NBCUniversal on Thursday, alleging that news reports that edited his voice on a 911 tape constituted defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The suit, filed in circuit court in Seminole County, Fla., asked for a jury trial. A spokeswoman for NBCUniversal said in response to the suit: “We strongly disagree with the accusations made in the complaint. There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly. We intend to vigorously defend our position in court.”

The edits of a 911 audio recording — which removed an intervening question from the operator directly asking Mr. Zimmerman what race Mr. Martin was — aired three times on NBC’s “Today” show: first on March 20, in a report by Lilia Luciano; on March 22, in another report by Ms. Luciano; and again on March 27, in a report by Ron Allen. The killing of Mr. Martin, on the night of Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., spurred a national debate about self-defense, crime and race.

In Ms. Luciano’s first report, Mr. Zimmerman’s words to the 911 operator were: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. He looks black.” In fact, Mr. Zimmerman told the operator: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.” When the dispatcher said, “O.K., and this guy — is he white, black or Hispanic?” Mr. Zimmerman then said, “He looks black.”

The suit charges that journalists at NBC News intentionally edited Mr. Zimmerman’s statements to make him appear to be a “racist, predatory villain.”

When the omissions were noticed at the end of March, NBC News conducted an investigation and concluded that the edits were mistakes, not deliberate distortions. Ms. Luciano subsequently left the network, as did a producer who worked with her. Mr. Allen remains at the network.

Ms. Luciano and Mr. Allen were named as defendants in the lawsuit along with NBC on Thursday. The producer, whose name has not been revealed in news reports, was not named as a defendant.

Mr. Zimmerman faces second-degree murder charges in the shooting of Mr. Martin, who was 17. His criminal trial is scheduled to begin in June.

A version of this article appeared in print on 12/07/2012, on page A18 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Zimmerman Sues NBC Over Editing Of 911 Tapes.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/man-charged-in-trayvon-martins-death-sues-nbc-for-defamation/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Economix Blog: Bruce Bartlett: Mitt Romney, Carried Interest and Capital Gains


Bruce Bartlett held senior policy roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and served on the staffs of Representatives Jack Kemp and Ron Paul. He is the author of “The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform – Why We Need It and What It Will Take.”

The issue of Mitt Romney’s taxes continues to be a political liability for him. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last month found that 36 percent of registered voters have a more negative opinion of him because of the issue, up from 27 percent in January, compared with 6 percent who have a more positive view.

Today’s Economist

Perspectives from expert contributors.

As I have discussed previously, the two years of returns Mr. Romney has been willing to release, for 2010 and 2011, show that he paid much lower effective federal income tax rates in both years than his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, whose income was 85 percent to 90 percent lower than Mr. Romney’s in those years.

A key reason for Mr. Romney’s low tax rate is that a very substantial amount of his income comes from capital gains – 51 percent in 2011 and 58 percent in 2010. Capital gains, no matter how large, are taxed at a maximum rate of 15 percent, whereas wage income can be taxed as much as 35 percent by the income tax plus taxes for Medicare and Social Security. The latter two are not assessed on capital gains.

Significantly, much of Mr. Romney’s capital gains income achieved this treatment through a special tax loophole called carried interest. According to recently released documents, executives at Bain Capital, where Mr. Romney made the bulk of his estimated $250 million fortune, saved $200 million in federal income taxes and another $20 million in Medicare taxes because of the carried interest loophole.

The way the loophole works relates to the peculiar method in which money managers are compensated. Typically, they receive a fee of 2 percent of the gross assets under management, much of which comes from employee pension funds, plus 20 percent of any increase in value.

Thus, on $1 billion of assets the managers would automatically get $20 million that would be taxed as ordinary income. If the assets increased 10 percent to $1.1 billion, they would get another $20 million. For tax purposes, this additional $20 million would be treated as a capital gain and taxed at 15 percent.

The theory is that the money managers effectively become part owners of the assets they manage as a result of the fee structure. Critics contend that the distinction between the 2 percent and 20 percent fees is purely artificial — that in reality all their compensation should be treated as ordinary income and taxed as such.

Among the sharpest critics of carried interest is Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of Colorado. In a Sept. 4 post on DealBook, he explains that the New York attorney general’s office is looking into the issue, seeking to determine whether money managers have been illegally converting their 2 percent management fees into lower-taxed capital gains.

The New York Times recently commented in an editorial that while the carried interest loophole is unjustified, the core problem is lower tax rates on capital gains generally. Said The Times, “As long as income from investments is taxed at a lower rate than income from work, there will be no stopping the search for ways, legal or otherwise, to pay the lower rate.”

The view that capital gains should be treated as ordinary income for tax purposes is one that is widely shared by liberal tax reformers. They got their wish, briefly, from 1987 to 1990 because Ronald Reagan agreed to raise the tax rate on capital gains to 28 percent from 20 percent in return for a reduction in the top rate on ordinary income to 28 percent from 50 percent, as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

There are three big problems, however, with taxing capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income. First, even if that were the case, capital gains would still be treated more beneficially, because the taxes only apply to realized gains. Those that are unrealized would remain untaxed. Investors needing cash could simply borrow against their assets to minimize their taxes, rather than selling and realizing a capital gain.

To equalize the taxation of capital gains and ordinary income, it would be necessary to tax unrealized gains. In theory, all increases in net wealth should be taxed annually, according to the economists Robert M. Haig and Henry C. Simons. But a 1920 Supreme Court case, Eisner v. Macomber, held that only realized gains could be taxed.

As long as a taxpayer decides when or if to realize gains for tax purposes, that is a very valuable loophole even if gains are taxed at the same rate as ordinary income. For one thing, a taxpayer can easily match gains with losses to avoid having net taxable gains. And, of course, capital gains would still avoid the 15.3 percent payroll tax, which applies only to wage income.

Second, there is a problem with inflation insofar as capital gains are concerned. Many academic studies have shown that a considerable portion of realized capital gains simply represent inflation, rather than real increases in purchasing power.

While theoretically capital gains could be indexed for inflation, it would be very complicated. For one thing, it is not clear what the appropriate price index should be. For another, there is the problem of also indexing losses. Historically, Congress has felt that simply excluding a certain percentage of capital gains from taxation was a better way to compensate for inflation.

Third, it is a fact of life that those with great wealth are the principal beneficiaries of the capital gains tax preference, and they exercise influence in our political system far out of proportion to their numbers. They will pressure both parties relentlessly to restore a lower tax rate on capital gains and eventually they will be successful. Keep in mind that two Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, signed cuts in the capital gains rate into law.

In short, it is a pipe dream to believe that eliminating the capital gains preference is the key to fixing the carried interest loophole. It can and should be addressed by treating carried interest as ordinary income, without requiring that all capital gains be taxed as ordinary income.

Article source: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/mitt-romney-carried-interest-and-capital-gains/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder: Fox News and Twitter Join Forces for Republican Debate

A screen shot of what Fox plans to display on FoxNews.com during the Republican presidential primary debate on Monday.FoxA screen shot of what Fox plans to display on FoxNews.com during the Republican presidential primary debate on Monday.

At the next Republican presidential primary debate on Monday night, Fox News will be measuring viewers’ reactions to each answer on Twitter, the social Web site that acts as an online water cooler during big television events.

Twitter users who are watching the debate will be encouraged to react using the hashtags #answer and #dodge — giving their assessment of whether the candidates are dodging or actually answering questions — and the results will be displayed in metered form on FoxNews.com.

Afterward, when TV commentators are analyzing what happened at the debate, “we’re going to try to pull some of this data into those conversations,” said Jeff Misenti, the vice president and general manager of Fox News Digital.

Fox News and Twitter tested the meters during an earlier debate in December.

“Fox was game to experiment with us on something that hadn’t been done before — real-time measurement of audience reaction over Twitter,” said Adam Sharp, the manager of government and political partnerships for Twitter in Washington. He added that Twitter executives had already been impressed by the Twitter use of Bret Baier, the Fox anchor who will be moderating the debate.

The partnership between Fox News and Twitter is the latest in a wave of online extensions to the 2012 presidential debates. CNN used a Twitter hashtag to highlight debate reactions on its Web site last year; NBC News teamed up with Facebook for a debate; and ABC News promoted a way to see campaign “spin” in real time.

Twitter is calling this the first “Twitter election.” Televised debates are chances for it and other companies to show off their audience bases, and for TV networks like Fox to experiment with new technology.

Mr. Misenti cautioned that “one of the traps that we can all fall into right now is using technology to be cute.” As long as that’s avoided, he said, the data gathered from a site like Twitter can add value to both TV and Web news coverage.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=72235f79d2d5ea51a63d6feec8abe244

Republican Debates Are a Hot Ticket on TV

This September, Fox’s debate — in Florida, with Mr. Romney, Mr. Paul and new names like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann — attracted almost twice as many viewers: 6.1 million, the highest so far this year. The very first televised Republican debate this spring attracted almost 3.3 million viewers, while the first debate in the spring of 2007 had 1.8 million.

What explains the fact that debates this year are garnering almost twice as many viewers as any of the early debates, Democratic or Republican, did four years ago? Cable news executives don’t know for sure, but they have theories. Chief among them is that widespread anxiety about the economy and disapproval of the political system is building viewership.

“The ‘pox on all of their houses’ sentiment of the summer debt limit debate is clearly affecting voters,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, the senior vice president for NBC News specials. “It’s driven them to be a lot more interested and more engaged in the process early on.”

“The issues have never quite hit home to this degree,” said Michael Clemente, senior vice president for news editorial at Fox News.

Other theories involve livelier contenders, showier production values for the debates and an increase in online chatter about them — some of the same traits that make reality TV shows successful.

The record-high ratings do not benefit the cable news networks directly through advertising sales, because there are few ads during debates. But the debates do benefit the networks indirectly, by attracting election-season sponsorships and by lending prestige to their brands. “It’s a great tent pole,” Mr. Clemente said. “You get to showcase your best people.”

While that has been true for decades, it may matter more now that cable news channels are effectively politics channels around the clock, making them more eager than ever to have screen time with the candidates. Exceptionally early interest in the election has revealed itself not just in the debate ratings but “in clicks online for political stories and in ratings for candidate interviews,” said Sam Feist, the Washington bureau chief for CNN, which will host the next debate on Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Television producers have added a little more sizzle to the debates this year — the introduction to September’s CNN-Tea Party debate reminded many of a “WrestleMania” match — and they say they have, in some cases, spent a little more than in previous years on the productions.

CNN intentionally held its debates this summer in large arenas. “I’m not sure that there’s a direct correlation between production values and ratings, but just anecdotally, the bigger the event feels on TV, the bigger the audience” that tunes in, Mr. Feist said.

(The introductory theme for Tuesday’s debate sounds a lot like an Olympics opening ceremony theme.)

Over all, though, Mr. Feist and his counterparts say they have made no major changes to the marketing, publicity or format of debates. For the most part, they credit the people on stage and the dramatic situations that those characters, for lack of a better word, create. Mr. Clemente said, “If I said, ‘There’s going to be a show on where you can find out how you might get a better job or retirement income,’ you’d go, ‘Geez, all right, let me listen to that.’ ”

In the early days of the presidential primary race, in May and June, the audience was more than three million each for the first debate on Fox and the second debate on CNN. The audience rose to five million on Fox in August and to 5.4 million on MSNBC in early September. A week later, the CNN-Tea Party debate drew 3.6 million; that decline was attributed to competition from “Monday Night Football” and tennis matches on other channels. Then came the current cycle’s record-setter, 6.1 million on Fox.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=85d9fd01f687457ca7c6af737accaa87