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What the Trump Impeachment Hearings Mean For Television

In a perfectly-timed test of relevance, broadcast and cable TV are going all-in with coverage of the house impeachment hearings.
  • The hearings are scheduled to be held in the Committee Room in the Longworth House Office Building, (House photo)
    The hearings are scheduled to be held in the Committee Room in the Longworth House Office Building, (House photo)

    While much of what we talk about in the Peak TV era has little to do with what's become known as traditional TV, there's one arena where Netflix and its growing group of VOD competitors can't beat broadcast and cable: live breaking news coverage.

    As if on cue, in a two-week period that's seen the much-ballyhooed launches of not one but two new premium streaming services, comes a breaking news event that suddenly plops traditional TV back in the center of the action: the live house impeachment hearings of Donald Trump.

    Of course, in an era of rampant cord-cutting, traditional TV won't be the only place viewers will be able to watch the impeachment hearings. But broadcast and cable networks remain most Americans' preferred choice for live breaking news, and judging from their coverage plans, it seems they plan to lean into that sentiment big time. 

    Each of the traditional broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS) will pre-empt regularly scheduled programming to provide gavel-to gavel coverage of the public hearings when they kick off Wednesday morning at 10:00 AM ET. And as you would expect, each of the 24-hour cable news networks will also offer live news coverage of the hearings.

    How much of the coverage will find its way into other time periods remains to be seen. At the height of the impeachmemt hearings for Presidents Nixon and Clinton, broadcast networks pre-empted primetime programming to focus on the hearings. That's almost certainly what House Democrats are hoping for this go-around, but it remains to be seen whether these impeachment hearings will capture the public's imagination in the same way.

    Complicating matters this go-around is the rise of primetime opinion shows on cable news. Those watching Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow Wednesday night will likely walk away with diametrically opposed perspectives on the events of the day. 

    If the stars align correctly, these hearings could provide a unique opportunity for the less-prone-to-opinion broadcast networks to shine in a way that no other television outlet can today. Imagine a world where truth-seekers across the US forgo their Netflix queues and their preaching-to-the-choir cable news hosts for a nightly just-the-facts wrap-up of what transpired that day.

    A person can dream. But after decades of cost-cutting in network news divisions at the hands of bottom line-minded network execs, how ironic is that those very same news divisions represent one of the networks' last great hopes of relevance in a bifurcated media landscape the likes of which we've never seen?

    Jed Rosenzweig is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Primetimer. Follow him on Twitter @jedrosenzweig.

    TOPICS: Trump Impeachment Hearings, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, PBS, Hannity, The Rachel Maddow Show, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, ABC News, Cable News, CBS News, NBC News, Trump Presidency