Potential Advertising, Viewer Loss May Threaten 'Hillary' Biopic

Image: Potential Advertising, Viewer Loss May Threaten 'Hillary' Biopic

Tuesday, 03 Sep 2013 11:58 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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NBC's controversial miniseries about potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is looking less ready for prime time, given potential threats from conservatives that could cut into advertising and viewers.

The planned biopic — reportedly starring Diane Lane as the former secretary of state, senator, and first lady — doesn't yet have a finalized script, reports The Los Angeles Times.

But experts say the conservative outcry over the production could cause the network and its affiliates to be blacklisted with potential Republican advertisers come election time, a real dilemma for stations that use political ads to stay profitable.

The GOP hasn't specifically threatened NBC over advertising, but many in the industry say the controversy could scare advertisers away.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has complained the network's plans for "Hillary" are tantamount to "a political ad masquerading as an unbiased production."

The RNC voted unanimously to exclude both NBC and CNN — which also is planning a documentary about Clinton — from the GOP presidential primary debates if they go ahead with the projects.

The GOP attacks mean the party may win whether or not the production airs, says Jeffrey McCall, a media professor at Indiana's DePauw University.

"The GOP's strategic attacks won't have any influence on NBC, but those attacks rhetorically signal to the GOP base that the party leadership has enough backbone to challenge the liberal media establishment," said McCall. "The GOP has gotten a good deal of attention with its righteous outrage, so their efforts are largely successful," he added.

The controversy already has led NBC Entertainment's top programmer to back away somewhat from hard plans for the miniseries.

"The Hillary Clinton movie has not been ordered to production," NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said in a statement last month.

"It is 'in development,' the first stage of any television series or movie, many of which never go to production," he added.

Even though the "Hillary" movie is already getting a lot of early buzz, that may not translate into positive or negative views toward her should she run, said Martin Kaplan, professor of entertainment, media, and society at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School.

Clinton is a polarizing figure, and most people already have an opinion about her that probably won't change just because of a television movie, observed Kaplan, who was Walter Mondale's deputy campaign manager in 1984.

He noted that many in the Mondale campaign worried that the feature film "The Right Stuff" would move voters toward Mondale's primary opponent, former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn, but the movie made no difference in the outcome.

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