What was shaping up to be a great battle two weeks ago between CNN and MSNBC sort of fizzled out. NBC didn’t arm MSNBC like it had the first time and there was a noticeable shift in scope and location of coverage away from Florida and back to New York. In ICN’s opinion that hurt MSNBC. Yes, it’s hard to argue with cutting costs and it has been reported in lots of places that the media returned in far fewer numbers this time around.
But CNN soundly outmaneuvered and outhustled MSNBC as a result for most of the 10-11 am hour and for most of the morning . With its Secaucus based coverage for most of the broadcast, as opposed to the heavy Florida based coverage the first time, MSNBC felt and looked flat. Only when Brian Williams came on to join Chris Jansing, and Secaucus got cut out and the higher profile analysts showed up, did MSNBC start showing signs of life in the coverage.
CNN got it right by bringing O’Brien back and sticking with him and keeping CNN’s analysis almost entirely Florida based. MSNBC left Chris Jansing as mostly a figure head while most of the heavy interviewing was done elsewhere by other people. O’Brien was there and his excitement was palpable and it was real. Randy Meier and Amy Robach’s excitement was elusive and not palpable because they were nowhere near the action but were doing the majority of the coverage. And even when Jansing was on she wasn’t allowed to do much. This is an unfortunate turn for her because she was originally supposed to be the main anchor for MSNBC’s coverage and had two specials going for it, only one of which has aired so far and the status of the 2nd is not known.
O’Brien kept the coverage lively by mixing up the topics…going from the past to the future. And his analysts were all there thoughout the morning and they came prepared.
FOX did what FOX seems to keep on doing, making do with less. FOX didn’t have the analysts that CNN and MSNBC had and they didn’t have the huge resources that they had. But the viewer would have been hard pressed to notice too much of a difference this time. FOX was somewhat different from its competitors in that it gives more juicier stories to its reporters. While MSNBC would go out to a reporter to get a reaction about something or another or out to Houston to get a semi-canned bit of information, FOX would give its reporters the opportunity to really report something. Rick Leventhal in particular was full of details…the kind of stuff that usually goes to the Anchor of the coverage (Leventhal would say things that ICN would hear out of Jansing or O’Brien’s mouths). FOX’s overall presentation was sharp and informative. You could quibble that FOX cut out too soon and wasn’t on the story long enough for those who considered this an “event” (a member of which ICN would admittedly be one of). But when they were covering the story they were covering the story well enough.
So overall ICN would say the winner for most consistent broadcast goes to CNN, with FOX in 2nd place. MSNBC, not having the same resources or the same drive and focus as they had the first time, didn’t really start getting ICN’s attention until Williams started his coverage. ICN is left to wonder how much better things would have been for MSNBC if the first launch attempt hadn’t been scrubbed because they were in a far better position to go toe to toe with CNN then.