(CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
How will the ratings for President Trump’s speech compare with Joe Biden’s speech last Thursday? And do the Nielsen numbers have any great significance?
Television ratings for the Democratic convention were generally down from the same event in 2016, and the RNC ratings are down more steeply.On Wednesday, 17.3 million people watched Night 3 of the RNC across 11 TV networks, down from 23.4 million on the equivalent night in 2016.The Republican convention ratings were weaker than Night 3 of the Democratic convention, which averaged 22.8 million viewers at the same time last week.Read MoreAmong the theories for the decline: That the RNC lacked a speaker as popular as Barack Obama; that the historic nature of Kamala Harris’ VP candidacy sparked viewership; and that the public is just fatigued by politics amid back-to-back conventions.The usual caveats about streaming TV trends apply here. More and more viewership is moving to streaming, and the Nielsen data only picks up traditional TV usage.But the week-to-week declines between the Democratic and Republican conventions were striking enough to get people talking. As writer and CNN contributor Garrett Graff commented on Thursday: “It’s hard to imagine anything that would annoy Trump more than if his big speech tonight got lower ratings than Biden’s.”We’ll have those numbers on Friday afternoon. Speaking of ratings:
Trump knocks NBA ratings
This week’s strikes by pro athletes are a seminal moment in sports, as many reporters and columnists have said. But Trump focused in on something else on Thursday: The ratings for basketball games. “I don’t know much about the NBA,” he said. “I know their ratings are bad because I think people are tired of the NBA. I know their ratings have been bad.” He said the NBA has become a “political organization.”This is the same president who, as I reported in the new book “Hoax,” called Sean Hannity to repeatedly inquire about his TV ratings as the pandemic froze American life back in March. Ratings are one of the best ways to interpret the Trump psyche. Yet he is claiming, once again, not to watch much TV…
“I don’t watch very much TV”
All week long, during my book tour, I’ve been talking about the president’s TV addiction. He watches 6+ hours of Fox a day, often via a DVR, fast forwarding through ads and non-Trump segments so he can get to the good stuff. His own sister Maryanne Trump Barry testified to his Fox obsession on a secretly recorded tape released by Mary Trump over the weekend. Yet, in a new interview with Peter Baker of the NYT, Trump “rejected the portrayal of him as a lazy, television-obsessed president.””Just the opposite,” Trump said. “I don’t watch very much TV. Nobody knows what I do. I work very long hours, actually, very long hours, probably longer than just about anybody. And I think more importantly, I think I work effectively.” In the same call with Baker, Trump talked about checking out Fox’s ratings for the RNC convention…
The norm-busting is the message
CNN Business managing editor Alex Koppelman writes: “The temptation is to cover this like a normal convention speech — to show the celebratory pictures and talk about the message and wrap up the whole convention. But is that the right thing to do? Because, of course, this was not a normal convention speech — this was a political speech given on taxpayer property while flouting the simplest measures for how to keep safe the people who attended it and their families and friends and neighbors and everyone else they’ll encounter on their trips back home.”Koppelman adds: “The counterargument is that we have to cover the message, that to do not do so would be bias. But wasn’t the setting, the context, the real message here? Wasn’t it a message consistent with much of Trump’s admin? The speeches by and about law enforcement on the one hand; the flouting of norms and laws on the other. The protection of the law and the rules is for you people with us on Team Trump; following the law and those rules, though, that’s for them. The press can cover this like it’s normal, we can tell ourselves that’s the way it should be done, but it is better to simply present the truth.”