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Bush Moved Press Conference To Accomodate Networks

By Christian
April 29, 2005 - 6:58 PM

See Also: 'Committed' Episode Guide

As the last of the four major networks, CSI network CBS last night decided to cover President Bush's prime-time press conference after all, leading to some last-minute programming shuffles.

As reported yesterday, the White House had originally scheduled the President's one-hour press conference to take place at 8:30pm, meaning it would have taken a cut out of two of the three hours of prime-time. None of the networks were very happy at the thought of losing so much ad income on the first night of May sweeps, and initially it looked as if only ABC would carry the press conference live. However, according to Variety NBC eventually told the White House it would cover the event if it were moved up by half an hour. Shortly after the press conference was rescheduled to 8pm, Fox announced it would be covering it, too, after which CBS had no choice but to follow as well.

CBS's decision lead to some last-minute shuffling of its schedule. On the East Coast, viewers first saw the President's press conference at 8:00pm, then Survivor: Palau in CSI's usual timeslot of 9:00pm, and finally CSI's "Committed" at 10:00pm. On the West Coast, the schedule remained as normal, with CBS airing a repeat episode of Without A Trace at 10:00pm.

Even though the four major networks ended up covering the event, not all of them followed it through to the end. Both CBS and NBC switched to an analysis of the press conference as the next-to-last question of the evening was being asked, and were already airing Survivor and The Apprentice by the time the President finished talking. This meant viewers missed Bush alluding to the controversy: "I don't want to cut into some of these TV shows that are getting ready to air, for the sake of the economy," he said before answering his final question.

The schedule changes lead to some unusual match-ups on the East Coast. Reality fans suddenly had to choose between watching Survivor on CBS or The Apprentice on NBC, while CSI was now suddenly programmed opposite ER. The results of this should be visible next week, when Nielsens Media Research releases the final ratings for yesterday night - the overnight ratings it releases every morning aren't detailed enough.

Variety noted that much of the confusion was due to the fact the White House had only announced the press conference on Wednesday, while previous administrations have always given the networks a few days' notice. But even if the networks would have been able to prepare their schedules in advance, it doesn't seem likely that would have made them any happier. "All the networks are going to lose a lot of money on this; that's the bottom line," a network insider told Variety.

For the trade paper's original report, please follow this link.

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