Cable news shows have been strategically placing digital countdown clocks in the corner of the television screen to let audiences know the exact time of an upcoming primary contest, debate, or town hall meeting.
The countdown clocks are being displayed by cable news channels for a very specific reason. It makes good business sense.
The unprecedented nature of the primary election season has contributed to sizable increases in revenues for the cable TV news outlets.
The unconventional campaigns of both GOP front-runner Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders have increased the news coverage of primary campaign stories, live rallies, town halls, and speeches exponentially.
Viewers are being lured in by the surprise filled election season due in part to the unpredictability factor.
Trump and Sanders are rewriting rules and defying norms as the two campaigns tap into the electorate’s frustration and anger on both sides of the political aisle.
More television viewers mean higher prices for advertising buys and increased profits for cable news outlets.
Debates for both political parties this primary season have drawn record numbers, with the GOP debates bringing in more than twice the size of audiences seen in previous election cycles.
According to Nielsen, the Fox News GOP debate held in August in Ohio was the highest rated primary debate of all time, attracting 24 million viewers.
Similarly, the CNN September GOP debate held at the Reagan Library in California had the largest audience in the network’s history, 23 million viewers, making it the second most viewed primary debate ever.
“It’s clear that Donald Trump is the one bringing in the ratings,” Chris Ariens, editor for Adweek, told TheWrap. “I haven’t seen anything like this and neither have the networks, which is why they’re taking great advantage whenever they can.”
The cable companies certainly know where their bread is buttered.
Since the start of 2015, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News have mentioned Trump more than any other candidate, according to the Vanderbilt University Television News Archive project.
There has been a great amount of speculation as to why Trump has been so prominently featured in the news coverage. In addition to the GOP front-runner’s ability to attract a massive audience, the Trump campaign has made its candidate more accessible to the networks than its competitors have.
“We invite candidates on every day, sometimes several times a day, but he [Trump] just happens to be the one who most frequently says ‘yes,’” Sam Feist, CNN’s bureau chief in Washington, D.C., told U.S. News.
The television ratings have also experienced a spike on the Democratic side, due to the presence of Sanders and the self-described socialist’s passionate supporters.
The first Democratic debate on CNN brought in more than 15 million viewers.
In so doing, it broke the ratings record that was set in 2008 for the first debate between then-Senator Barack Obama and Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, which by comparison attracted only 11 million television watchers.
The cable companies have been quick to turn the ratings surge into big dollars. After scoring on the second GOP debate, AdvertisingAge reported that CNN raised its advertising fees to 40 times the normal rate.
An average 30-second spot during CNN’s primetime coverage, which had a tab of approximately $5,000, has been hiked to $200,000. This rate is very close to what advertisers pay for a hit show on a major broadcast network.
Similarly, during its October GOP debate, CNBC received $250,000 for a 30-second spot, according to CNN. Fox News also invoiced advertisers more than $250,000 for a 30-second advertisement during its January 28 debate, so reports The Wall Street Journal.
More advertising money than ever before has become available for the purposes of political ad buys.
The Supreme Court case, Citizens United, which generally removed limitations on individual and corporate political spending, has made even more dollars readily available for electoral advertising.
Despite the fact that the electoral season has only hit the halfway mark, more than three times the amount of money spent during the 2012 primary season has already been expended.
Over $265 million in Super PAC money has been spent thus far on the 2016 primary race, according to OpenSecrets.org.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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