So the Big 3 networks sent their evening news anchors on the road to follow Barack Obama around last week on his Excellent Overseas Adventure.
If the nets' managements harbored any hopes that doing so might significantly increase their overall audience, or meaningfully increase the number of viewers in the key 25-54 demographic, those hopes were dashed when last week's ratings were released Tuesday (Source for all ratings info in this post - Media Bistro Newser: July 21, 2008; July 14, 2008; July 23, 2007; July 16, 2007):
Total viewers during the week of July 21 increased a "whopping" 0.6%, or 117,000 viewers, compared to the week of July 14. The improvement in the 25-54 demographic was barely better at 1.1%, or 66,000 viewers.
Given that there appears to have been no meaningful financial return for the extra travel and other costs the nets incurred on their "tag along with Barack" projects, perhaps what they spent towards giving the presumptive Democratic nominee a week-long exposure advantage targeting their existing audiences should be treated as Obama campaign contributions.
While I'm looking at the evening news, in comparing the past two weeks' results to the two comparable weeks in July 2007, it's clear that the long-term decline in total audience continues unabated, while there have been slight but overall unimpressive pickups in the 25-54 demographic (000s omitted):
In 1980, the combined evening news audience for all three networks was about 52 million. Their weekly audience -- in the low 20-million range even during non-summer months -- has declined about 60% since then, while the country's population has grown 34% (currently 304.7 million vs. 227.2 million in 1980) in the same period.
Based on their current form, content, and audience, it might not be too cynical to suggest that the three evening news operations have, in essence, morphed into daily half-hour persuasion exercises designed to convince otherwise naturally conservative senior citizens and near-senior citizens to vote for Democrats.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.