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Capitalizing on Debate Season

Your station carrying not only the presidential debate, but also carrying debates in statewide races, can grow and keep your audience tuned in.

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The election season always brings opportunities for news talk stations to shine. The audience knows they can go to you for the latest information, news and events. I’d imagine there won’t be a news talk station (that isn’t fully syndicated) that won’t carry this week’s second and final Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. 

It’s relatively easy to do, it’s great for branding and it hopefully draws you some cume during a time of day when your station might not typically get it. 

But what about carrying debates from some of your local races? 

It seems like debates at the state level are happening less and less each election cycle. Political consultants are convincing campaigns that it’s only the blunders that get remembered and the campaigns flush with cash are better off letting their TV and radio ads do the storytelling for them. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, that’s a disservice to the voter. But it’s the way things are trending, unfortunately. Incumbent favorites usually find every reason to not debate their opponents. 

So when a debate does occur, how can your radio station capitalize on it? And should you carry it? 

Here in Kansas City on KCMO Talk Radio, we will be airing a congressional debate on Thursday, October 22nd, between incumbent Democrat Sharice Davids and Republican challenger Amanda Adkins. The seat that was Republican for nearly a decade until 2018, when the House of Representative’s “Blue Wave” hit Kansas’ third district. As a news talk station, our conservative audience would love nothing more than to flip the seat back into Republican hands. 

Also, the seat covers essentially the entire side of the KC Metro in Kansas. Unlike in Top 5 or Top 10 markets, where congressional districts, for example in the Dallas-Fort Worth market can include up to, or more than, 10 congressional seats, the Third District of Kansas is the bulk of the Kansas side of the KC Metro and is a relevant race to a huge part of the listening audience.

With that being said, we elected to carry the Third District debate this week which is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. There was some hesitancy as it is in the middle of Ben Shapiro’s afternoon drive show, and Ben is performing well on the station, but considering the percentage of the audience that lives in this district, combined with the fact that it’s the only debate between the two candidates, we decided to move forward.

Also, it gives us a great branding opportunity as Thursday being “Debate Day” and a “Two-Fer”, as listeners will get our local, Third District debate at 5:30 p.m. and then later that evening the Presidential Debate at 8:00 p.m. We’ve used that branding on our website and social media.   

The lead up to the event will be just as important, if not arguably more important, than the debate itself. All week long, we’ve been able to push on the station via promos, liners, imaging, etc. our ability to cover the local and national races better than any station in the Metro, while branding ourselves as the station, politically, where “if it’s happening in KCMO, it’s on KCMO”. Thursday’s debate will be another example of coming through on that promise in a way no other station in the market will be.

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BNM Writers

Fox News Tells Its Audience to Pound Sand

The Fox News slide is now far more than anecdotal. RedState reported last week that MSNBC’s Morning Joe beat Fox News’ Fox & Friends in the ratings for the first time in 20 years.

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“It’s been nice having you around for 25 years. Really, you’ve made us quite wealthy and successful. We gave you what you want. But it’s time for you to hit the road, because we don’t share those values anymore. We’re done with you. You’ve served your purpose, and please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

In essence, these were the unspoken words delivered by Fox News to its legions of viewers on November 3rd, 2020.

One of the first signals came early in the night, as many viewers were just settling in for a night of watching the election returns, when the Fox team announced gleefully that not only would Democrats hold the U.S. House of Representatives, but they would actually surge and gain at least five seats.

In reality, Fox news was quite wrong, as Republicans rode a red wave to massive double-digit gains in the House. 

The climactic moment when Fox News unofficially gave it’s viewership the royal salute was shortly after 11pm, when the network’s brainiacs declared Joe Biden the winner in Arizona. That was the first call of the night to cut against the grain in President Trump’s most direct path to re-election. The problem, of course, is that the Grand Canyon state has yet to be officially decided…21 days later.  It may indeed flip from red to blue. Or it may yet stay in Trump’s column, after looming recounts and/or legal challenges.

Regardless, Fox was ready, willing and eager to kick its loyal audience to the curb. And truthfully, that is their prerogative. Changing leadership and, with it, a change in philosophy has foreshadowed this evolution for years.

Out were Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and others. In are Donna Brazile, Leland Vittert, Chris Wallace and other voices skewing left. 

And many other changes have been noticeable for quite some time. 

Neil Cavuto, a once-staunch espouser of free markets and conservative principles, has seemingly joined his pal, Mitt Romney, in the destroy-Trump-at-all-costs mission. Just two weeks ago, Cavuto cut away from White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s press conference, as she was pointing out mounting evidence of voter fraud. Cavuto simply couldn’t allow such assertions to go out over the Fox News airwaves.

Dana Perino, a mostly-fair yet non-Trumper, responded last week to current vote-altering allegations by wondering on air if, or when, the Dominion company would sue the Trump legal team.  She tweeted that she wouldn’t be surprised if they do. Certainly she may be correct, if one presumes the allegations of corruption are unfounded. The facts have yet to be heard and the process has yet to play out. Still, her gut reaction seemed to be to attack the Trump team. Same for many other contributors heard on the network.

Some of the shifting attitudes inside Fox News began to show prior to the election. One example came in September, when contributor Newt Gingrich brought up the influence of George Soros when discussing the violent rioting and looting in Democrat-controlled cities across the country. The startled panel of hosts chided Gingrich for making the remark and shut down the train of thought. 

The change inside Fox News has even escalated and attached itself to the network’s biggest name, at the moment. Tucker Carlson recently announced he’ll continue to host his network program, and then last week took what many felt was a personal aim at Trump attorney, Sidney Powell. Carlson correctly noted that he has yet to see verifiable proof of Powell’s claims of massive voter fraud, but then descended into personal attacks on her demeanor and credibility. Through text message exchanges, she has refused to appear with evidence on his program, and Powell says it was Carlson who was rude and unprofessional. Regardless, the last two weeks has taken Tucker down a couple pegs in the eyes of some of the more than 73 million Trump supporters. Many of these same viewers had, until recently, even put forth Carlson’s name as a future presidential candidate.

The big winners so far, as Fox News has summarily dumped its loyal customer base, seem to be NewsMax and One America News. Like Trump himself, both growing networks play to a conservative, traditional American base. They have seen skyrocketing interest and ratings over the past few weeks, as viewers search for an alternative to what they could count on for more than two decades at Fox News.

As Fox dismisses claims of voting irregularity and proclaims Joe Biden as “President-Elect,” One America News recently aired a feature entitled, “Dominion-izing the Vote,” which went in-depth into the “glitches, errors and money trails” related to the voting systems used in many swing states.  

The Fox News slide is now far more than anecdotal. RedState reported last week that MSNBC’s Morning Joe beat Fox News’ Fox & Friends in the ratings for the first time in 20 years.

The Daily Caller quotes a Morning Consult survey that reports while 67% of Republicans viewed Fox News favorably before the election, only 54% view them favorably now.

And depending how the 2020 election eventually ends up, these networks may have a new leader to glue them together with the Republican, conservative and populist base. At the moment, that leader still has plans for the next four years. 

As he is fond of saying, “We’ll see what happens.”

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BNM Writers

7 Million Tune In Across Five Networks For NASA’s SpaceX Crew

“The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that propelled the Crew Dragon spacecraft with four international astronauts into orbit attracted nearly 7 million viewers across five networks.”

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There was still plenty of news to cover in the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election that resulted in victory for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. But one major non-political news event also received significant coverage: the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. On Sunday, Nov. 15 at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that propelled the Crew Dragon spacecraft with four international astronauts into orbit attracted nearly 7 million viewers across five networks. The three cable news networks carried the launch — CNN (1.92 million), Fox News Channel (1.27 million), and MSNBC (0.79 million) — but the launch’s top outlet was Discovery with 2.21 million viewers. Its sister network Science Channel attracted 761,000 viewers.

The audience was on-par with the splash-down landing of the SpaceX Demo-2 flight back on Aug. 2 (6.53 million across the same aforementioned five networks), but nowhere near the amount of those who tuned in to the SpaceX Demo-2 launch back on May 30 (15.43 million).

The SpaceX Crew-1 traveled en-route to the International Space Station to begin a six-month science mission — longest human space mission launched from the United States.

While that launch occurred, CBS aired “60 Minutes” featuring the first prime time interview of 44th U.S. President Barack Obama since the election of his former running mate Joe Biden to the office POTUS. An average of 12.88 million viewers tuned from Nov. 15-18, according to Nielsen Live plus Three Day data; 12.38 million of those watched it on the night of Nov. 15. With “60 Minutes” reporter Scott Pelley, Obama shared his thoughts on the current state of the nation and government as he promoted his memoir, “A Promised Land”. Earlier on Nov. 15, Obama spoke with CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King on “CBS Sunday Morning”; that edition drew 5.4 million viewers, which marked the 620th consecutive week “CBS Sunday Morning” was the most-watched Sunday morning news program in total viewers — that’s nearly 12 consecutive years on top.

Post-election coverage kept CNN on top of cable news for the second straight week. For the week ending Nov. 15, 2020 in total day data (from 6 a.m. to 5:59 a.m. each day), CNN averaged 1.62 million total viewers and 444,000 adults 25-54.

Although they returned to dominate in prime time, Fox News Channel could not best CNN for the entire week, drawing 1.6 million viewers and 297,000 adults 25-54. MSNBC posted 1.49 million viewers and 247,000 adults 25-54.

Top 11 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 11/10/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.191 million viewers

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/10/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.694 million viewers

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 11/11/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.667 million viewers

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 11/9/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.539 million viewers

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 11/12/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.311 million viewers

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 11/11/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.260 million viewers

7. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 11/12/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.103 million viewers

8. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 11/9/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.998 million viewers

9. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 11/13/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.882 million viewers

10. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Tue. 11/10/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.806 million viewers

11. Hannity (FOXNC, Fri. 11/13/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.568 million viewers

12. The Lead With Jake Tapper (CNN, Fri. 11/13/2020 4:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.305 million viewers

13. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Tue. 11/10/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.247 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC program with associated rank) among adults 25-54:

1. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 11/10/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.355 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 11/11/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.034 million adults 25-54

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 11/9/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.921 million adults 25-54

4. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Tue. 11/10/2020 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.904 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/10/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.903 million adults 25-54

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 11/11/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.889 million adults 25-54

7. Cuomo Prime Time (CNN, Mon. 11/9/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.858 million adults 25-54

8. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Mon. 11/9/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.833 million adults 25-54

9. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Wed. 11/11/2020 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.831 million adults 25-54

10. Cuomo Prime Time (CNN, Tue. 11/10/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.829 million adults 25-54

62. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 11/9/2020 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.581 million adults 25-54

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BNM Writers

Goodbye, Alex

Trebek hosted Jeopardy! in its current iteration since its debut in 1984, recording more than 8,000 episodes. He had a rare combination of authority and accessibility that engendered the audience’s trust in him.

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Photo by Marabuchi CC BY-SA 2.0.

When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was beat my mom at Jeopardy!

Every night in the living room she would mow through the show with ease. At first, it was hard to even think of the answer before she could say it aloud.

I got so desperate, I’d start repeating the answer super quick after the contestant did, trying to make it sound like it was on the tip of my tongue and I knew the answer too.

As I got older and learned more, I’d start getting a few. You never forget how that feels. I haven’t thought of it in forever until I recently became a father.

I’d push myself in French Literature and pray there was a sports category in Double Jeopardy! By the time I was in high school, we were just barking answers at the TV like our humans weren’t home and Alex Trebek was an intruder. 

But that would be impossible, wouldn’t it?

Because no matter how much Americans barked at the TV over the last 36 years, it always felt like Alex Trebek was on our team. ‘We’ were the fourth contestant, even though he had all the answers.

Trebek ran out of answers last week, or rather doctors did while trying to stop the pancreatic cancer he battled for two years. 

Trebek hosted Jeopardy! in its current iteration since its debut in 1984, recording more than 8,000 episodes. He had a rare combination of authority and accessibility that engendered the audience’s trust in him. 

He had all the answers, but it seemed like he knew all the answers. He wasn’t just reading them off a card. He knew them. Hell, maybe he wrote the questions, that’s how smart everyone thought he was.

I think it was the way he pronounced everything perfectly. You just knew he had done the research, and he had the chops to pull off any accent. 

Or maybe it was because he was Canadian, though northerners were actually banned from appearing on the show as contestants at one time.

Trebek managed to come off as intellectual equals with even the top contestants, that little chat halfway through round one becoming a nightly tête-à-tête with Ken Jennings or James Holzhauer. 

Or maybe it was because the show was just so prevalent and pervasive. New episodes almost every night and reruns when there weren’t. Contestants like Ken and James were household names during their respective Jeopardy! runs.

Trebek’s executive producer says he had a ‘nice final day,’ a peaceful passing for a man who brought so much happiness to people’s lives.

Even more fitting is that his final episode of the 35 he recorded this season will air on Friday, December 25.

Christmas Day.

A gift.

One that many families will hopefully open together, in front of the tree, shouting answers at the TV.
Hoping Mom thinks you’re smart.

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