Final Cable TV Presidential Debate…on ESPN?

According to the sports media blog Awful Announcing, the campaigns of both sitting President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have reached out to ESPN to have their candidates appear on Monday Night Football on ESPN the night before the presidential election. This follows 2008, when both Obama and then Republican nominee John McCain were both interviewed by Chris Berman in segments that ran during halftime of the Steelers-Redskins game the night before that election. Both candidates also appeared on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning.

So why do the presidential candidates want to appear on a show that has nothing to do with politics? It’s simple: Monday Night Football is the most-watched television program on cable TV, bar none. It’s the night before the election, many people are watching, and taking softball questions from Chris Berman about who their favorite football teams are, some of their Super Bowl memories, and maybe even what they think about player safety in the NFL will make both candidates look more like “regular guys.” The only way this can really backfire is if one of the candidates says something stupid or comes off entirely like a robot.

Still, it is disappointing that of all the sports media personalities that will get a crack at the presidential candidates, it’s Chris Berman, who used to be one of ESPN’s main attractions and is now one of the cable sports empires main downfalls. I personally would prefer seeing Scott Van Pelt talk to Obama about old hip-hop, or maybe even Darren Rovell talk to Romney about finance. Instead, we’ll get Berman lobbing softballs, possibly tossing in a few of his catchphrases, and trying to get the presidential candidates to do highlights in his signature style. C’mon, man.

Presidential Debate Airing on Cable TV and Broadcast Networks

The second debate between sitting President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney will broadcast live tonight, Tuesday October 16. It will air on network TV on all four major networks, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, and on cable TV news channels C-SPAN, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC, beginning at 9pm EDT. The first debate attracted an audience of 67.2 million viewers across the networks and cable channels, while the debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan attracted only 51 million viewers, far fewer than watched the equivalent VP debate in 2008 between Biden and Sarah Palin.

The debate will be moderated by Candy Crowley of CNN, the first female moderator for a presidential debate in 20 years. The format will consist of 90 minutes of town hall questions from undecided voters, with topics limited to domestic issues and foreign policy.

It is doubtful that this debate will draw the same amount of viewership as the first debate between Romney and Obama, as democrats and republicans alike were stunned at Obama’s lethargic performance, with Romney winning the night according to many viewers. Criticisms that Obama, a great public speaker, could not perform without a teleprompter, seemed quite valid as Obama looked petulant and unprepared and Romney appeared calm and in control.

Who watches on what channel is generally divided on party lines, with hardcore democrats watching on MSNBC and conservatives watching on Fox News. Undecided voters tend to fall more toward CNN or the broadcast networks.

Can Obama win the day, or will Romney prevail again? Or will it be too close to call, with partisans on both sides claiming victory? Perhaps the only way to tell is when the polls finally close just a couple weeks from today, and we know if we have an incumbent president returning, or a new guy coming into office.

Fox News Wins Cable TV Debate Ratings

According to Maboot, Fox News Channel, the most conservative-leaning of the three major cable news networks, won the cable TV ratings battle for presidential debate coverage. 10.436 million people tuned for the debate between President Barack Obama and Republican hopeful on Fox News, up from 8.2 million four years ago. CNN came in second among cable news channels, with 6.1 million viewers, and MSNBC brought up the rear with 4.7 million viewers.

The winner in total was ABC, which led the broadcast networks and all the cable news channels with 11.25 million viewers. The network’s post-debate coverage drew almost 9 million viewers. Overall, viewership for the debates was up significantly from four years ago, with 67 million people in total watching the first presidential debate, 15 million more than watched the first debate between Obama and McCain four years ago.

There are a number of theories as to why Fox News is winning the cable wars when it comes to election coverage. The presence of a democratic president that many are not satisfied with may have led viewers to a network that tends to be more critical of the president. Republicans who might not have paid as much attention in past years seem more excited about the potential of upending the chance for a second term for Obama.

Also, the younger viewers that made up the core of Obama’s base are tuning out in droves, either thinking that Obama has no chance of losing, or being disappointed in how few of his initiatives he actually followed through upon.

It can be dangerous to conflate television ratings with voting blocs, but it does seem like the Republican base is mobilized for this election, perhaps more than in 2008, and that is reflected in the Fox ratings. Add to that the fact that many agree Romney “won” the first debate and it’s interesting to see what will happen with the next one, both on the dais and in the ratings.