I’m not sure how this crazy primary season has been for the nation, but it’s been a marketing boon for news networks. Specifically, it has allowed them to burnish their brands and suddenly declare — a la Mike Bloomberg — that they are in the TV Everywhere business.
That starts with Fox News Channel, which, in terms of ratings and the elevation of its premier talent Megyn Kelly, has been the single biggest beneficiary of the “Trumpizing” of the White House race. Nothing screams that more than The Donald’s game of chicken with FNC over whether he will boycott the January 28 Iowa GOP smackdown because of Kelly being back in the inquisitor role.
What’s lost amid the taunts between Fox News supremo Roger Ailes and The Donald is that FNC is taking full digital marketing value out of hosting the debate, for the first time streaming the elephantine smackdown to all who care to tune in — no cable or satellite subscription required. All anyone needs is an Internet connection. The Fox News Go app will also have the debates, as well as terrestrial radio on Fox News Radio.
In other words, even a Fox News that skews heavily to the Modern Maturity set wants to entice the cord-cutters and cable-nevers to its “fair and balanced” world view. The powers that be at Ailes’ news machine know that even for its loyalists and the rest of us political junkies, we want our news and info wherever we want it, whether that’s the flat-screen in the living room or on an iPhone while stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. FNC has been pulling unheard-of-before numbers for the GOP slugfests, so why not add to those gargantuan millions by drawing in the over-the-top TV crowd?
FNC, which has long dominated cable news ratings, was late to the streaming party. Competitors CNN and MSNBC have used similar strategies for debates they’ve carried this campaign season. They, along with ABC News, have introduced news audiences to their respective TV Everywhere platforms, while also giving advertisers maximum reach. PBS will do likewise on Feb. 11 when it hosts the next Democratic showdown. This will give the pubcaster reach far beyond the broadcast stations in its system.
This election year is rocket fuel to the mulitplatform ecosystem. FNC and its competitors not only push the streaming option, they are all making second-screen experiences via partnerships with Google, Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat part of the mix. Taking that step, they are modeling what savvy mega-brands from Apple to Coca-Cola also do as standard digital procedure. And why should news organization be any different?
The same rules apply to the politicians, as they must, given their symbiotic relationships with the news organizations that promote them or demote them in a manner that seems gauged by what’s best for the bottom line that day.
Last week saw the warm narcissistic embrace between two reality TV stars, Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, keeping The Donald atop the polls and returning the failed former vice presidential candidate to the headlines and “Saturday Night Live” via Tina Fey. Meanwhile, the fact that Bernie Sanders had adroitly used social media to ignite a disenfranchised base of digital natives was largely ignored by the evening news, even though this strategy may actually turn the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary into dead heats with presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.
Is it possible, really, that a crazed, demagogic billionaire is poised to top the GOP ticket to face-off against a crusty Brooklyn-born socialist senator from Vermont? If so, it’s an eerie fairy tale suitable only for these meta post-digital times. What an unlikely pilot for a limited-run fall reality series.
No wonder, with that series gaining buzz, that Bloomberg, Trump’s fellow billionaire, is poised to swagger into “The Donald Vs. Bernie Show” like a guest star who suddenly becomes a regular in episode six. The three-term New York City mayor, who made his stacks off of financial terminals and used them to fund a media empire and a political career, has every reason to believe he can convert his mountains of cash and tech savvy into a White House prime-time run this fall.
Or better yet, how about this scenario: On Facebook, 1,371 people “like” a page called “Campaign to Make a ‘Weekend at Bernie’s 3.’” Oh, have we got a plot twist for them — and it’s one millions of folks are likely to keep watching, on any and every platform.