Making Sense of the RNC Declining Viewer Numbers

Russ Steele

We watched the Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech with some DVR time delay on Public Television, to allow us to fast forward through any of the talking heads.  We tried Fox, but gave up with all the nattering heads messing up the viewing experience. We could have watched C-SPAN also, to reduce the number of nattering talking heads, but found the KVIE feed acceptable.

Many of our friends chose C-SPAN over the Dish Network and Comcast.  They may have contributed to the news reports of RNC viewership being down 8.6 million when compared to John McCain four yeas ago.  We did not watch John McCain four years ago, it was too painful. We only watched Sarah Palin’s speech.

With the number of Registered Republican at an all time high, according to Rasmussen, one has to wonder were all the viewers.

During August, 37.6% of Americans considered themselves Republicans. That’s up from 34.9% in July  and 35.4% in June.

It’s also the largest number of Republicans ever recorded by Rasmussen Report since monthly tracking began in November 2002. The previous peak for the GOP was 37.3% in September 2004.

If Republican enthusiasm is up why is viewership down? According to Chris Lynch writing at his IPTV Blog, there are three simple reasons:

1. The ratings reports I’ve seen do not include C-SPAN which is a staple of almost every single cable or IPTV operator. I know I gave up on listening to the talking heads on the major networks (even PBS thought what they had to say was more important) to watch C-SPAN instead. Many, many people who watched the convention live did their viewing on C-SPAN where the coverage was uninterrupted. Yet where are these people in the numbers? And yes – I realize that C-SPAN was also around 4-years ago but I think people have become much less reliant on the opinions of the “main stream media”. In fact I’m guessing many are now openly repelled by them. People who may have watched on CNN or Fox News 4-years ago probably found a much better viewing option on C-SPAN this time around.

2. Most of the networks covering the convention also had a live stream feed as well. The networks (like Fox News) were almost begging people to use the stream and I’m guessing many obliged since the live stream was uninterrupted coverage uncluttered by nattering nabobs uttering ignorant opinions. You would also have the situation of divided households. One spouse may be apolitical and more interested in their “shows” while the other more politically active spouse watched the proceeding via their iPad or PC. My guess is that the first spouse shows up in the numbers while the second spouse does not.

3. YouTube (and other similar services) are much more prevalent than they were 4-years ago. If you Google “Mitt Romney RNC Speech” the fist page on YouTube has videos which combined total close to half a million views. I’m guessing there is at least another half million views under different titles or on various other formats. Personally I did not watch Paul Ryan’s or Condi Rice’s speeches live on Wednesday because Casablanca was on TCM. I knew I could catch the speeches later on YouTube.

Support for this theory will be increased if President Obama’s speech viewership is also down by 20-30 percent versus 2008. It will indicate that current audience measuring metrics are not keeping up with the viewing technology. It could also indicated there is less enthusiasm for Obama, but that will be much harder to measure given the changes in viewing technology.   We will not be watching his speech, his sing song delivery drives us crazy, and his unwillingness to deal with the truth raises our blood pressure.


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

4 Responses to Making Sense of the RNC Declining Viewer Numbers

  1. RL Crabb says:

    And here I thought conservatives never watched PBS.

  2. Purple Hays says:

    Forget the conventions on either side, 2016 Obama’s America is all I needed to see.

  3. Arthur M. Day. says:

    Seattle PBS is ready to donate it’s organs. It’s been brain dead for several years. It seems to be on permanent subscription drive, showing the same few entertainment films over and over.

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