Consumers seem to shrug their shoulders. Perhaps we're in the middle of a head-scratching political thriller. Or maybe it’s just hard to read through 448 pages of the Mueller Report in one afternoon.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr held a press conference on April 18, offering a vigorous presidential defense. That was followed by news analysis. This totaled some 11 million Nielsen viewers across all networks on the day.
Looking more broadly at cable TV news networks at the days leading up and just after offered steady, but not stellar, numbers. Fox News Channel averaged 2.9 million prime-time viewers for April 15 through April 19, while MSNBC had 2.2 million viewers and CNN had 900,000.
Maybe this is only the second act of a three-act play. Former and present TV screen performer Donald Trump also knows about surprise endings — at least when it comes to viewers.
He also knows about stalling, delaying and appealing court decisions, over and over. Just look at how he operates his businesses when in financial difficulty. The trouble is, those activities weren’t shown on the big screen.
Throughout his presidency, Trump made sure to tell a compelling fictional account (to those craving such tales) of who the "bad" guys are — the press, the mysterious and evil "deep state," even the Mueller team. (But when Robert Mueller was appointed, Trump was shaken: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f—ed.”)
Fox News Channel, during its prime-time programming, pushed this fantastical tale, which ended with Trump’s “total exoneration.” That is, until most of the Mueller Report was released. And the country learned what Barr had omitted.
We have seen TV news networks grab mostly rising ratings during the Trump Administration reign. High viewing has meant big advertising dollars.
And just to offer a complete picture, there were also other ratings, such as presidential approval ratings.
A recent release of those numbers headed south — slipping some to a 41.4% approval rating for Donald Trump, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, looking at a composite of a number of polls. Some individual polls placed Trump numbers in the 37% to 39% range.
What’s the TV bottom line? A big sweeping finale, with big Super Bowl-like ratings, where surprise criminals are being led away in handcuffs? Right now, Americans may be voting for the Trump series to be cancelled.
But a spinoff could be in the works.