There are two truths in American politics: They make for strange bedfellows and now, sure enough, they make for big ratings too.
The August 6th debate on Fox News featured 10 of the 17 Republican hopefuls headlined by, a.k.a. starring, Donald Trump. Love him, hate him, or mock him, he has galvanized the national dialogue like no candidate in generations. The real winner at this point… Television.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the telecast drew a stunning 24 million viewers, of which nearly one-third, or 7.94 million were adults 25-to-54. As interestingly, 2.56 million were adults 18-to-34, the same demo that is supposedly not watching TV any longer.
To give you some context on the magnitude of 24 million viewers, this was the most watched event for any summer TV program this year, topping Game 6 of the NBA Finals on ABC (23.3 million viewers). And then this: This debate now ranks as the all-time, most watched non-sports cable broadcast in the history of cable television. Seriously, nothing trumped Trump. (For those keeping score, the largest all-time cable broadcast is the college football championship game between Ohio State and Oregon which was viewed by 33.4 million people.)
So here’s what we know:
- Television is still king. No other medium today can single-handily attract that many people to view the same thing at the same time. While these landmark 20 Million+ broadcasts are fewer today than a decade or two ago, it continues to prove that live, compelling programming can still bring in a mass audience.
- Politics is still great theater. In today’s television, where reality programming leads the pack, the high stakes and drama of politics takes this to a whole new level. Whether it is a debate, the nightly talking pundits, Sunday morning news shows, or election night coverage.
- Make room for political ads. It is estimated that political advertising from both sides of the aisle will approach $10 Billion in 2016.
- During the primary season, look for rate increases of at least 5% more on a state-by-state basis from January to June.
- Starting in September through Election Day, expect double digit cost increases in the most highly-contested swing states of Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.
- National news networks (e.g. CNN and Fox) are expected to experience higher demand and pricing increases.
- Nationally, but especially locally, expect spots to be bumped in large number. As they are being made up in November and December, you can bet this high demand/high cost scenario will last long after the last hanging chad is counted.
Ultimately, even after Trump implodes (or not), even as the first “real” woman candidate steams towards her party’s nomination (or not), even as the stakes get higher and the pressure mounts, we already know the winner because the Tube is mighter than The Donald.