Don’t expect big ratings for final debate

October 22, 2012

Hopefully, you did not put your money on Monday night’s debate to be the highest-rated of the three skirmishes between President Obama and GOP hopeful Mitt Romney.

Although four years ago the first of the three presidential debates attracted the fewest viewers, in this election cycle, network suits forecast that the third debate would be the least-watched.

Not that it makes any difference to them, professionally, because the debates run without ads, so they have no way to monetize them.

Presidential debate ratings have been quite robust this election cycle. Nearly 67 million people watched Romney attack Big Bird while Obama took a nap during the first debate. That’s nearly 15 million people more than saw the first presidential debate in 2008.

Virtually the same number — about 66 million — caught last week’s second debate, when Obama woke up and Romney brought binders full of women. That’s about 2.4 million more folks than watched the second debate in ’08.

“The first one was The First One. The second one was, ‘Is Obama going to [mess] up?,’ ” one network exec explained to the TV Column, of the debates’ nearly identical numbers.

But Monday’s third debate — while sure to be the night’s most-watched event, running as it does on a multitude of networks — had three strikes against it:

1. The debate was scheduled to air against Monday Night Football.

ESPN, for its part, was sufficiently concerned about debate viewing that it started running ads last weekend telling fans how to watch “Michigan’s own battle Chicago’s favorite son” in Boca Raton, Fla., while simultaneously watching the Chicago Bears take on the Detroit Lions on its network.

2. The debate was to air against Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Traditionally, Game 7s draw the highest numbers in a series. There’s something about a Game 7 that gets even casual baseball viewers to the TV — even viewers who don’t care that much about either St. Louis or San Francisco.

3. The debate was set to focus on foreign policy.

Which, the network exec explained, is “something no one cares about — unless we declare war on Lindsay Lohan.”

Kids pick Obama

Children have elected President Obama to a second term in a landslide, in Nickelodeon’s 2012 Kids Pick the President voting.

Since this franchise began in 1988, kids have correctly picked the POTUS (before the national vote) five out of the last six elections.

More than half a million votes were cast in the network’s online poll this time around. Obama received 65 percent of the vote and former governor Mitt Romney received 35 percent, Nickelodeon reported.

Four years ago, children cast a record-setting 2.2 million votes in what Nickelodeon notes is not a scientific poll; then-Sen. Obama was declared the winner, with 51 percent of the vote to Sen. John McCain’s 49 percent.

Voting was down because this year, for the first time, Nickelodeon limited voting to one vote per electronic device, to “more closely replicate the actual election, and to ensure the results were more authentic,” although kids were able to vote online from Oct. 15-22.

There’s also no telling how voting might have been affected by Romney’s decision to decline to participate in the accompanying “Kids Pick the President” TV special.

Only one candidate — Sen. John Kerry in ’04 — has declined to participate in the special. Ironically, that year the kids picked Kerry to win — the only time they got it wrong.

‘New Girl’s’ new price

Sunday NFL football has surpassed “American Idol” as the priciest program on television for advertisers, ending “Idol’s” run of at least five years.

Drama series are nowhere to be found on the list of 10 shows commanding the highest price for a 30-second ad this season.

The top 10 list is positively polluted with comedies, suggesting that 18-to-49-year old viewers — the ones advertisers pay a premium to reach — want to laugh again.

ABC’s hit “Modern Family” leads the comedy pack — duh — at No. 3 on trade publication Ad Age’s annual survey of ad prices on all of the broadcast network’s prime-time shows. Ad Age compiled the list using data from as many as six media-buying agencies, and other sources, for ad-time buying during the “upfront” market, before the kickoff of the 2012-13 TV season.

Most surprisingly, a 30-second ad during Fox’s sophomore series “New Girl” costs only about $10,000 less than one in “Modern Family.” Zooey Deschanel’s sitcom ranks No. 4, Ad Age says.

Last season, the comedy came cheap — $126,000 for a 30-second ad. This season, “New Girl’s” price has more than doubled, to $321,000 per 30-second spot. Several factors contributed to “New Girl’s” it-girl status. The show is very upscale; its audience is thick with young, college-educated viewers in homes earning $125,000 per year or more, notes an industry exec who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he/she is not authorized to speak to the TV Column on this matter.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvblog.

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