Archive for the In Depth Category

Looking Closer at that Pew Report on Campaign News Sourcing: What The Numbers Really Say (or don’t say)…

Posted in CNN, FNC, In Depth, Miscellaneous Subjects, MSNBC on February 7, 2012 by icn2

The New York Times’ Brian Stelter writes about a new Pew Report on campaign news sourcing

Cable news channels are now the most prominent sources of campaign news for the American people, narrowly passing local television stations for the first time, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

It’s not that cable news is rising as a news source — it isn’t. But local stations, network news programs and local newspapers are declining in relevance, the survey indicates.

And there’s this…

The report affirms that cable news — led by the Fox News Channel, which is the No. 1 channel of its kind — is driving the national political conversation, at least among those who care to have the conversation nearly a year before Election Day.

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In Depth: MSNBC’s “We’re Insiders” Problem…

Posted in In Depth, MSNBC on July 22, 2011 by icn2

The dust has hardly begun to settle in the wake of Cenk Uygur’s departure from MSNBC but already we can see the two distinct storylines being pushed by the respective parties involved. Uygur says MSNBC wanted him to tone it down and MSNBC says it wanted Uygur to tone it down but where they differ is what exactly needed to be toned down and who was concerned about the tone in the first place. However, ultimately none of that is relevant because it doesn’t matter what the truth is…what matters is what does the audience that Uygur catered to think is the truth. And to begin to answer that question we need to first look at how MSNBC went left in primetime.

MSNBC’s leftward turn may have started out organically thanks to Keith Olbermann but it was a business decision to expand upon that and build out early prime and primetime based on what Olbermann had done. MSNBC didn’t start out at launch looking to address a perceived need as FNC did. No, it spent years fumbling about trying various identities and looking for a winning formula. Consequently, while FNC viewers have never to any great extent seriously doubted that network’s commitment to its mission, MSNBC viewers in general and progressives in particular tend to look at what the network has done going left as a business decision.

Why does this matter? Because by being viewed as a business decision what the network does is viewed more skeptically by the true believer crowd it’s trying to cater to. The thinking would be something along the lines of “Yes, MSNBC is now trying to talk to us but it didn’t used to and it may not do so in the future”. MSNBC isn’t viewed as “one of us” by progressives the way FNC is viewed as “one of us” by conservatives. It’s viewed as “someone who is trying to cater to us”. That’s not an insignificant distinction and it goes a long way to underscore the reaction taking place on the internet to Uygur’s departure. While a few souls have characterized the fall of Uygur as something of his own creation, others have taken a different tack…
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In Depth: How CNBC has Blown its HD Advantage…

Posted in CNBC, In Depth on June 8, 2011 by icn2

When Bloomberg launched its HD feed a few weeks ago, I wondered whether it was just a graphical change or the video was all HD. Since the rollout has been limited so far – DirecTV hasn’t flipped Bloomberg HD yet and given how long it took to flip MSNBC HD (a year after it started) it will probably be a while – I didn’t know the answer until today. Today I saw a screengrab and the picture is definitely HD.

This leaves one cable news network carried widely in the US that hasn’t gone to full HD. Just one. CNBC. Al Jazeera isn’t carried widely here. Neither is BBC World News. Neither is CNNI but my understanding is CNNI isn’t HD yet either. HLN is HD now but isn’t widely distributed in HD yet.

CNBC was the second network in the US to offer an HD broadcast behind CNN (though CNN’s full rollout to pure HD was excruciatingly long and occurred in stages over a timespan of years). But CNBC’s sole change in HD was graphical in nature. It added an HD wing. It did nothing with the video.

Over the succeeding years, CNBC has stood and watched as it got passed by as FBN launched in full HD, FNC went full HD, MSNBC went full HD, HLN started down the HD road, and now Bloomberg US is in full HD. CNBC is the only remaining US based cable news network not to embrace full HD. And it was the second to launch an HD feed?

This got me to wondering “Why has CNBC stagnated on rolling out full HD?”

Could it be because it didn’t have the facilities to handle HD (Control rooms, etc..)? Well it does. CNBC’s Englewood Cliffs HQ serves as the Master Control backup for MSNBC and NBC Nightly News and it’s hot swappable. If they can control HD for those broadcasts, they can do it for their own.

Is it because CNBC hasn’t made the capital investments in swapping out the old SD cameras for HD versions? According to my sources, they have. Though it’s not clear that they have done it for all their sets. Remember, Englewood Cliffs is huge and has several studios dedicated for specific shows. You can’t just move those HD cameras around. They have to have enough cameras to cover all those sets.

The more digging I did the more puzzling this became. CNBC apparently has the proper infrastructure to handle an HD switchover and yet it has refused to do so. CNBC Europe’s London set is also fully HD capable but hasn’t been switched on. I don’t know the HD status of CNBC Asia’s studios.

One area that may be an issue is the graphics for the shows. CNBC’s wing and crawl may be HD but are all the graphics for all the shows…the splash screens, the animations, etc…now re-rendered for HD display? That would be a costly endeavor but the network has had years to work on this so the cost could have been spread out during that time by doing it in stages to make it more palatable.

CNBC hasn’t commented publicly on the HD subject. Privately however, I’ve heard stories from a couple of sources that the network has no plans to go HD in the foreseeable future. Worse, some of the reasons I’ve heard for that decision are pretty weak. I’ve heard that while the network has HD capability in Englewood Cliffs it has no HD control over remote feeds and trading floors. Well FBN manages just fine. It has full HD cameras on the floor of the NYSE and it has no qualms about showing the odd SD video feed from a remote location. Is CNBC admitting it won’t do what FBN can? All the networks that are currently HD air SD feeds on occasion and seem to have no problem with doing so. And those SD feeds are getting lesser and lesser all the time as more studios and remotes switch over to HD.

This isn’t 2007 with HD just starting to achieve penetration in the market. It’s 2011 and HD is well entrenched. The HD landscape has changed since CNBC first went HD and the network has not kept up. It stood pat. It’s now lagging well behind everyone else even though it apparently has the infrastructure capability to make the switch. This is inexcusable. It’s the stuff jokes are made for. It reflects badly upon CNBC and the network should move with all deliberate haste to launch full HD broadcasts as soon as possible. CNBC is no longer an HD leader. It’s now a straggler.

In Depth: The CNN – John Roberts Debacle…

Posted in CNN, In Depth on January 3, 2011 by icn2

We still don’t know exactly how and why things fell apart between John Roberts and CNN, the end result of which had Roberts winding up at FNC. But what we do know is that CNN horribly bungled the Roberts situation.

Last year CNN was involved in a very different bungled change; the exit/push of Larry King and the hiring of Piers Morgan. During that whole saga CNN wouldn’t say anything until the ink was dry. It wouldn’t say it was looking to find a Larry King replacement, even though the stories about Morgan had been circulating for a while, until King “announced” his leaving and a separation deal had been signed. It wouldn’t say it was talking to Morgan, even though it was (though maybe not in legal terms), until it had reached an agreement with NBC Universal. It wouldn’t say for sure that Piers was the one until it had hired him. Sure, all the leaks…many coming from Morgan’s camp…made this whole situation farcical but the point is CNN wouldn’t announce or do a thing until the ink was dry in all these instances.

Now contrast that with what happened with John Roberts. First word leaks out that Roberts is leaving American Morning and CNN issues a “No Comment”. So far, so good. CNN never talks about contracts so this is consistent. Then Roberts has his last day at CNN on Dec 24 and Carol Costello notes at the end of American Morning that Roberts will be staying in the CNN family and Roberts talks a bit about how excited he is about the new projects and being closer to his bride to be. So you have to figure that this is a done deal, right? CNN wouldn’t let things get this far and let it go out over its air if it didn’t have some contractual thing ironed out, right? It wouldn’t put the cart before the horse…the announcement before the ink hits the paper, right?

Wrong apparently. Because one week later Roberts is now headed for FNC and CNN is facing an unmitigated disaster. It announced the move over its own air before the contract had been signed. That’s okay as long as things go as planned. If they don’t…well.

This is a colossal top to bottom failure by CNN’s executive team which let things get out of control with Roberts to such a degree that public pronunciations were allowed to occur without any legal foundation to them, something that it never let happen with King and Morgan. CNN ends up looking feckless. Newly minted President Ken Jautz starts 2011 with a self inflicted black eye. CNN has to face a bunch of questions it doesn’t want to face. Roberts going to FNC would not be the story it is for CNN had it not made it look like he was staying put. Bad show all around.

Update: Could Roberts have been playing coy on his last day? Carpe Diem recounts the final minutes of Roberts’ final appearance on American Morning and correctly notes that the suggestion that Roberts would stay with CNN came not from Roberts himself but from Carol Costello.

There are two active questions here: 1) Was Costello ad libbing in the dark, not knowing Roberts and/or CNN had no intention of getting back together? 2) Was Costello being accurate and something happened after which made Roberts turn to FNC?
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In Depth: Jim Walton Bungles Executive Shakeup or Slick PR Move?

Posted in CNN, In Depth on September 24, 2010 by icn2

I touched on this briefly earlier this morning but it really needs a bigger fleshing out. The major question everyone should be asking in the wake of today’s CNN executive shakeup isn’t “How’d it happen?” nor “What’s the future hold?” nor “What other changes are coming?” and certainly isn’t “What’s Klein’s legacy?”. No, the most important question which only a few people have looked at so far is this: Why now?

Why fire Klein now? This is the real head scratcher. This is what makes the whole executive shakeup nonsensical for me.

Put it in these terms: Klein had mostly completed implementing another makeover to primetime and early evening. John King, USA is still young. Parker Spitzer is set to debut next month. Piers Morgan will debut in a few months. Sure there’s an open question about future talent staffing on American Morning, which Klein was probably already looking at but hadn’t gotten around to working on, but the biggest focus – the one where everyone is looking at – has been primetime. 2/3 of CNN primetime just got rebooted and the lead-in to primetime (King’s show) is new. Firing Klein at this point makes no sense because you fire the man but you’re forced to live with his legacy. You don’t fire people so that you can live with their legacy. You fire people because you don’t want to live with their legacy.
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In Depth: Geraldo Rivera Re-writes History

Posted in FNC, In Depth on September 7, 2010 by icn2

I wasn’t going to talk about this but it keeps coming up on FNC so I have to step in here and clear the air with a bit of a fact check. There’s been a lot of write ups on Geraldo Rivera’s 40 years in TV. Rivera is controversial. Some like him. Some can’t stand him. But he has had a more diverse career than most reporters will ever hope to have. So it’s right for Rivera to get his victory lap. He deserves one.

That all said, there’s one particular aspect of the victory lap that sort of puts a damper on the festivities for me. It concerns the “line in the sand” incident; where Rivera was accused of giving away troop positions on the ground. That incident made Rivera’s highlight reel along with a lot of other stuff like Al Capone’s vault and the chair throwing incident on his 90s talk show. I suppose the “line in the sand” is noteworthy though I wouldn’t put it in my top 5 or even top 10 highlights of Rivera’s career (though his on FNC’s air meltdown about NBC being out to get him after there were reports he was being kicked out of Iraq was must watch TV). But whatever, they decided to include it. That’s their prerogative. It’s what happened after that which got to me.

Rivera tried to downplay the incident, like it was no big deal and then went on to highlight his devotion to the US troops and included a video clip of David Patraeus thanking Rivera for his support of the troops.

I was going to let that slide Saturday night, except Rivera brought it up again on FNC this afternoon with Megyn Kelly and Rivera expanded his defense to include an attack of MSNBC. So now I have to set the record straight that Rivera is trying to gloss over.

I will not deny Rivera’s devotion to the US troops and what they’ve done. I think journalists in general could learn a thing or two from watching Rivera’s work with the troops. But to say that the “line in the sand” was no big deal is an argument that exists in an alternate reality we do not live in. It was a big deal and anyone who wants to know more about just what happened and how seriously this was taken by CENTCOM, the DOD, and FNC, one should re-read David Carr’s New York Times article on the incident

Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News Channel correspondent who broadcast a report from Iraq on Sunday night that gave details of the position and plans of United States troops, is expected to be pulled from the country on Tuesday, military officials said yesterday.

The expected decision by Fox, a unit of the News Corporation, to remove Mr. Rivera from the battlefield, after intense pressure by the military to do so, followed a day of conflicting statements.

Yesterday morning, an official at Central Command headquarters in Camp Saliya, Qatar, said Mr. Rivera’s reporting had compromised ”operational security” and that he had been escorted back to Kuwait.

By the afternoon, Bryan G. Whitman, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for media relations, said the matter had not been settled.

”We have been in contact with the news organization,” Mr. Whitman said. ”They are taking it very seriously, and we will make the appropriate determination once we have been able to evaluate all the facts here.”

And it wasn’t just a line in the sand that was the issue here but time has dulled people’s memories apparently. Here’s another refresher courtesy of Carr…

”At one point, he actually revealed the time of an attack prior to its occurrence,” Lt. Mark Kitchens, a spokesman at Central Command, said yesterday morning. Lieutenant Kitchens added that Mr. Rivera had been escorted to Kuwait.

You mention Rivera’s name these days and most people aren’t going to think of “line in the sand” too much. Yet, it’s been front and center on FNC twice now in the past three days. Fine, if FNC and Rivera want to dredge up ancient history most people don’t care about, okay. But dredge it up properly. Don’t try to sugar coat it to make it more palatable.

Related: Odd that Rivera would bring up “line in the sand” in his highlight reel but not the “hallowed ground” incident in Afghanistan which even Roger Ailes labeled as a “rookie mistake” to Broadcasting & Cable…

We asked him to apologize for a rookie mistake. He got off the helicopter, had one source; it was a Northern Alliance source. He said this was a friendly-fire incident or something. He went to air with it, immediately. He should have checked it with another source. We apologize for jumping the gun. We thought it was a rookie mistake. Sorry.

Guess that one would be a little tougher to gloss over.

In Depth: MSNBC Dayside Changes…What do the Ratings Reveal? Not much…

Posted in In Depth, MSNBC on August 8, 2010 by icn2

With the recent news of the hiring of Martin Bashir and Richard Lui for anchor positions on MSNBC, it appears MSNBC dayside is headed for some sort of September changes. The current version of MSNBC dayside dates back to the beginning of this year when there was a reboot of dayside. Interested in what MSNBC might be looking at in terms of dayside’s performance, ICN got its hands on the year to date ratings for MSNBC from 10am-4pm ET in a month by month breakdown for each hour. Unfortunately, the data is not very revealing. It shows that for the most part MSNBC dayside at each hour has been operating within a range and that the variations, while trending up in the demo recently, could be considered within Nielsen’s margin of error because of their small size when you’re only talking about tens of thousands.

While MSNBC has decidedly improved its dayside product by beefing up on news, it’s clear that for the moment it’s not been enough to move the ratings significantly. This may be why we’re now hearing about new hires and rumors of further changes to come. There are a couple of other interesting things going on here.

1. 10am ET is not following the same direction the ratings are going for the other news hours in the Total Viewer category (11-3pm). The other hours seem to be more in lockstep month to month. 10am, though, is charting its own course.

2. The other thing worth noting because of the public outcry in some areas of the internet is that, for all the talk of support by his fans on the internet and outrage over his removal, David Shuster’s disappearance from the schedule has not had a meaningful negative impact either at 10am or 3pm (Shuster was taken off the air in April).

Here are the numbers broken out by hour and month (all times ET)


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