Presidential Debate Viewership; Sports Media’s Political Leanings; Weekend Programming: Media Mailbag

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Another great week of questions for the Outkick Media Mailbag.

Here we go:

“Presidential Debate [tomorrow] has to break the 2016 record for viewership, right? I would be shocked if it doesn’t.”

A great question to start with.

The first Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate set the record at 84 million. In second place, Ronald Reagan-Jimmy Carter drew 81 million; Bill Clinton-George Bush-Ross Perot II is third — down at 70 million.

Trump-Biden doesn’t have the mystique of Trump-Clinton. Joe Biden is a boring candidate. His “lids” are more newsworthy than his policies. Hillary Clinton was a controversial figure who viewers tuned in to root against. On the Democratic side, the interest is not close to akin. Though, there is intrigue to see if Biden can hold up on stage across from Trump.

President Trump is still the country’s most polarizing, interesting personality. However, in the 2016 debate, viewers needed to see Trump with their own eyes. For millions, the first presidential debate confirmed a wild-card, a non-politician, a celebrity could run the country. 

Four years ago, routine Republican voters were contemplating if they could get behind Trump. Today, whether it is yes or no, that decision is made.

That said, Tuesday comes with a topic-advantage.

Political and social issues are now more widespread in interest. 2016 was divisive; 2020 is historically toxic. With the culture war at a peak, racial issues at the height of the conversation, and a global pandemic — few Americans don’t hold strong opinions on tomorrow’s topics.

To answer the question: I don’t see record-breaking. I predict lower viewership than Trump-Clinton. For the reasons in the third and fourth paragraphs, I’ll go 73 million viewers.

From a general standpoint, the media leans very far left even the sports media (Max Kellerman rant [last week]) what percent of media do you think is liberal compared to conservative? From my perspective it’s about 90-10.

A lot to get to here.

There’s a difference between sports media personalities and sports media personalities vocal about political issues. Currently, the latter is more uneven than 90-10. In the past five months, how many sports media talents have let it be known they are conservative? At the networks, I can’t think of a single one.

Will Cain was labeled “the conservative.” As weird and telling as that was, it also wasn’t accurate. I can tell you, there were and are more conservatives in sports media. Cain just didn’t hide it and didn’t fear the backlash.

Fear drives sports media. Social media amplifies fear. There is an industry-wide fear that if one disagrees with the Left’s stance on racial issues, they will be labeled a “racist.” Thus, executives let Jalen Rose, Mark Jones, and Max Kellerman push misinformation that diminishes the company’s credibility. It’s why far-left talents are being aggressively promoted: Elle Duncan, Michael Eaves, and Domonique Foxworth. Most importantly, it is why anyone who is conservative or even moderate hides their political beliefs.

It’s disappointing, it’s wrong, and a disservice to sports fans. But it is reality.

I don’t believe there is a single on-air employee at ESPN who would publicly oppose the nonsense, the idiocy vocalized last week by Mark Jones and Max Kellerman. If Jones stood up for police, if Kellerman blamed riots on the Left, ESPN talents would gather together like hyenas to bring them down.

Sports media is more reckless and far-left than news media. CNN and MSNBC at least read the news before bloviating. ESPN skips that necessary step and goes right into opinions absent of facts and pushback.

Until someone in power has the backbone to point out the double-standard, the hypocrisy, and the lies — nothing is changing.

It seems like Fox News prioritizes weekend programming more than competitors. They have all-stars on both Sat. and Sun. 

Why do you think that is? Waste? Good idea? 

100% not a waste.

Networks have overlooked the value of weekend programming. On weekends, most channels punt in key time slots that attract viewers who can’t watch during the week.

In addition to serving different demographics, aggressive weekend programming builds talents up. It provides the reps to transition to higher programming.

You are right, Fox News’ weekend hosts are not throw-aways. It’s led by Mark Levin, an industry legend. Fox & Friends Weekend — which goes unmatched in the morning ratings — features three younger hosts with promising futures: Pete Hegseth, Will Cain, and Jedediah Bila.

Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters, who hosts the wildly popular The Five, hosts Saturday night shows.

Additionally, Fox News frequently airs noteworthy Sunday specials. Example: July’s The Fight for America hosted by Harris Faulkner.

Fox News Sunday differs as it airs on broadcast TV and competes with NBC’s Meet the Press and CBS’s Face of Nation.

CNN doesn’t completely punt, though its weekend programs are not leaving strong marks.

MSNBC’s weekend morning slot is the lead hole. With the Morning Joe, MSNBC rates well Monday-Friday mornings; the network is a non-factor on early Saturdays and Sundays.

I’d take it a step further; sports networks should also look to bolster up their weekend lineups when live sports don’t interfere.

*Follow Bobby Burack on Twitter @burackbobby_

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.


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  1. Should we play a drinking game during the debate, where every time Biden forgets what he’s saying after 5 words, you have to take a shot? Buy some good Tequila? Go to the emergency room halfway through the debate? What do you think?

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