Can There be Ratings Victories Without Super Tuesdays?

By Brett Spielberg, Content Strategist/Editor, Zimmerman/Edelson, Inc.

Now that primary season and the conventions are finally over, can cable news keep putting its best foot forward without event-based programming?

The Presidential election still has four months to go, so the news won’t be taking a break. But with the end of primaries in all 50 states and a handful of territories, plus two national conventions, can cable news keep a good thing (for them at least) going?

Plenty of us are tired of the political programming — it seems like it might never end. To an extent that’s true until at least November — when the 2016 Presidential cycle wraps and the 2020 cycle kicks-off, of course — but the formula of affordable event-based programming has proven itself key for cable news networks.

Michelle Obama has been a featured — and acclaimed — speaker at the last three Democratic National Conventions.

CNN, for instance, has seen some of its strongest ratings come from Super Tuesday and the subsequent semi-super Tuesdays. And while Fox News is proven to be the top player in cable news as far as nightly ratings, CNN has found a way to draw audiences for major “hard” news throughout the political process, especially from the ever-coveted 18–34 demographic.

Much is to be said about live, streaming programming. But there is a high cost attached. Consider the billions of dollars networks commit for the rights to sports broadcasting. While the Disney Corporation had one of its best years ever, the financial commitments ESPN (its subsidiary) has made to secure the NFL and other broadcasts has made an impact all the way to the top level of the parent company.

NBC paid $4.38 billion to secure exclusive broadcasting of the 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020 Olympics,

A combination of a growing competition for an audience, for which event-based programming is a clear ratings winner, and the growing costs of buying the broadcast rights for live events — like the NFL, NBA and Olympics — along with new technology companies eager to disrupt the market with innovative streaming, has pushed day-to-day political horseraces into its role as the best option for cable networks to capture high daily ratings.

Content is everywhere; getting enough eyes and ears to tune in is the task at hand. With larger-than-life personalities fueling this political cycle, expect a heavy dose of the 2016 election through the fall and an early start looking toward 2020.