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Last Debate Is Not a Winner, In the Ratings

Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain drew nearly 60 million.
Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain drew nearly 60 million. (Pool Photo By Gary Hershorn -- Getty Images)
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Fox is contractually obligated to carry the game if this year's World Series comes to that.

Obama's campaign is ponying up just shy of $1 million each to NBC and CBS for the half-hour buy. The camp likely would pay a similar amount to Fox. That's considerably less than NBC and CBS would otherwise get for the 10 or 11 ad "units" they run during that half-hour. But Obama is not getting a price break; the campaign will be charged what's called the "lowest unit cost" in compliance with federal law.

ABC and Obama's camp are still in talks about whether the network will make available the time slot, which would enable the candidate to create a so-called "roadblock" on the broadcast networks.

With those networks these days accounting for only about half the audience watching TV at any given time, it's a less dramatic programming stunt than it would have been a decade or so ago, but pretty dramatic nonetheless.

ABC has scheduled an episode of its struggling dramedy series "Pushing Daisies" at 8 that night. The show is one of last year's freshman series hurt by the writers' strike; ABC is trying to relaunch it this fall, but so far without much luck. ABC execs may believe there is opportunity for "Daisies" to get more sampling if the network does not join in the Obama buy, particularly now that Game 6 would not start until 8:35 p.m. -- more than halfway through the "Daisies" broadcast.

* * *

John McCain, so pugnacious in his encounters with his Democratic rival, folded like a tent when confronted last night by late-night host David Letterman, whom McCain stood up last month.

"I screwed up," McCain said of his last-minute decision to cancel his appearance on CBS's "Late Show" last month, forcing Letterman to scramble to find a replacement guest.

Letterman, who's been laying into McCain every night since then, started in immediately last night when the candidate walked onstage at the Ed Sullivan Theater.

"Can you stay?" he asked, dripping cynicism.

"Depends on how bad it gets," McCain answered.

The candidate admitted he "screwed up" but bravely tried to suggest he'd done Letterman a favor by backing out of his previous date.


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