The campaign within the campaign has offered a great laugh as it does every four years. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- a participant -- says he loves it, too.
Surrogates for Obama and Romney (such as Christie) cry poor on cable news and Sunday talk shows, trying to lower expectations about how their candidates will do in the presidential debates, which begin Wednesday. The aim is to set the stage so if my candidate struggles, well then, he was supposed to -- so no worries. But if he dials up a breakout performance, then you'll know how persuasive his arguments are and how phenomenally well he comes through under pressure.
So, a pro-Obama argument holds: he’s rusty, Romney is an unspeakably excellent debater, so Obama is the clear underdog.
Sample pro-Romney argument: Obama is superb at this, which he showed against McCain four years ago, he’s the leader of the free world, of course he knows the issues inside and out (even though he's wrong on them), so Romney is the clear underdog.
As PBS legend Jim Lehrer gets ready to once again take the stage as a debate moderator, it’s time for this month’s Leaders & Bleeders:
1) NANCY DUBUC – After reinventing the History channel and spurring growth at Lifetime, she becomes president of entertainment and media for all of A+E Networks. In her new role, she makes a neat move by green-lighting a mini-series to appeal to both the male-skewing History audience and female-targeted Lifetime one. “Bonnie & Clyde,” starring Miley Cyrus, will reportedly air on both networks.
2) TLC – Lots of non-viewers are starting to ask, “What’s this Honey Boo Boo?” thing. TLC’s lowbrow series about a pint-sized beauty pageanter, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” has people talking and curious. And it’s drawing impressive enough ratings that the network has ordered more episodes and three holiday specials. The show comes at a time when TLC needs some ratings juice. Related plus: TLC sibling OWN network signs Tyler Perry to programming partnership, which will yield first scripted show for Oprah’s channel. Maybe re-runs come to TLC?
3) VICTOR CRUZ – Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is back after a year off as perhaps the NFL’s leading endorsement star with commercials for Papa John’s, DirecTV etc. His brother Eli does pretty well, too. But they have an emerging challenger in New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, who does a salsa dance after each touchdown he scores. And Cruz has been dancing a lot over the past year, including Sunday night before a national TV audience. Campbell’s is using him in reviving its “Mama’s Boy” campaign for Chunky soup and Time Warner Cable is also showcasing him.
4) CROSS-PLATFORM MEASUREMENT – Media buyers and sellers are eager for a widely accepted system to track campaigns across screens. Options are percolating (which might delay the widely accepted part). Nielsen announced the debut of a cross-platform ratings system Monday, while Arbitron and comScore have partnered on a similar joint effort, which also measures radio. ESPN has had a seminal role in both and could take the lead in steering the industry’s future in the space.
5) MTV – The network has boldly tried hard over the years to avoid letting hits go stale and it’s timing on “Jersey Shore” is right on. The sixth and final season of the show that helped recharge the network begins Thursday. Two spin-offs haven’t exactly exploded, but the amazing has happened: Sam and Ron are living together. So maybe that’s grist for one that could work.
1) FISCAL CLIFF – Every industry is concerned about what happens after the election as Obama (even if he loses) and Congress have to negotiate a compromise – and haven’t they been getting along just great! – on all kinds of financial matters by Jan. 1. Absence of that, both corporate and consumer tax burdens will increase notably and could hamper the ad market. According to the Tax Policy Center, almost 90% of U.S. households would be paying more and nearly every tax cut implemented since 2001 would expire. Hopefully, both Obama and Romney will be asked what can be done during Wednesday’s debate. Check back on those rosy 2013 ad-market forecasts on New Year’s Day.
2) NEXSTAR – The station group showed a commitment to the future of its business -- and local TV at-large -- this summer with a deal to acquire a group of stations, including two each in Salt Lake City and Memphis. Its share price has nearly doubled over the past year. But it lost a court ruling that could have it playing the role of pawn in fee negotiations between Time Warner Cable and its brethren, other station groups, until 2014. Time Warner Cable has imported Nexstar stations into distant markets as a tactic to keep network programming going to gain leverage in trying to cut down on carriage payments. A judge turned down Nexstar’s request to stop Pennsylvania stations from airing in North Carolina, for example.
3) NHL/WNBA/MLS – The NHL’s issue is short term. The hockey league has to find its way out of a lockout, which many think is likely by Jan. 1 in order to save the Winter Classic on NBC. In the meantime, the NBC Sports Network will lose some important content. Separately over the longer term, surely the WNBA (women's hoops) and MLS (soccer) have done the math and believe continuing their seasons into the fall apparently makes financial sense, but wouldn’t fan interest increase if their playoffs culminated in late August -- a relatively dead period on the sports calendar? That in turn would likely increase fan interest in the regular season all summer when there is no football and baseball postseason to compete with.
4) D&D -- A DirecTV-Dish Network merger creating a satellite TV conglomerate, which both companies want isn’t likely to happen under an Obama administration. But who knows whether a D&D emerges if Romney wins or the two companies can muster a more persuasive case than AT&T and T-Mobile? DirecTV CEO Mike White said recently a D&D could bring more favorable content costs and lower consumer bills. Hard to believe. And, while White argues the pay-TV space now has more competition than a decade ago, taking one major player out of the market would seem to be a consumer detriment.
5) USPS – The financially struggling U.S. Postal Service is closing branches and downsizing its staff to save money. So, surely its marketing unit got the letter (more likely email) to do its part with austerity measures? Doesn't appear so. Unless it thinks agencies will come back offering significantly lower fees, reopening a media review that began last year, doesn’t seem a good way to keep costs down -- not to mention project competency.