Sweeping Sweeps

To many people, May simply brings flowers …but not for anyone even remotely related to the news industry. Both pitchers and producers alike are highly aware of what May brings: long nights, tension over ratings and a general overwhelming sense of danger. Because to news folks, May means Sweeps!  And not just any Sweeps, THE Sweeps that will define advertising dollars for months to come.  No pressure, right?

PR professionals who deal in TV and radio will tell you, between cranky news folks (can’t really blame them) and the utter need to have a story the network can hang their marketing dollars on, watch out for May.

We spoke with former newscast producer and resident zcomm producer, JoAnn Mangione, for an inside look at the mayhem known as sweeps. “Sweeps means news organizations need to put on their PR hats. The idea is to get the audience to stay tuned after their favorite primetime show and watch the local news,” said Mangione. “No matter what newsroom I worked in there was always that one person who could come up with the perfect tease lines to keep an audience, ‘The Mayor is dead, we’ll tell you what city at 11.’  Sometimes the Sweeps story is tied in to a the plot line of a popular show people are watching at 10 – give them the right tease and you’ve got them at 11.”

Well, that must be simpler in a time when viewers have a hard time differentiating between the crazy Vampire show and the news. They are both just as unbelievable. Take” The Good Wife” for example. A TV drama that focuses on a woman whose high profile husband has admitted to having an affair. What a great lead into the exact same thing happening in real life! It should not be this simple. Public figures have really taken the fun out of coming up with creative lead-ins and teasers. How hard is it? “Stay tuned for more of the same.” Sigh.

Today’s headlines look more like Michael Ausiello’s Sweeps Scorecard of shocking pregnancies and sex scandals than news.  Perhaps the networks threw in the towel after 30-year runs of “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” because they couldn’t compete. Because between Arnold‘s infidelity, Strauss-Kahn’s sexual assault allegations, a shuttle launch and, of course, the end of the world for non-believers, Erica Kane just seems like a nice lady who lives a really quiet life.

It’s so blurry these days, but one thing is clear. Real life has taken the spin out of PR and the intensity out of Sweeps.  Somehow, real life has become more sensational than any headline we can write. All that’s left to do is grab the remote, pop some popcorn and sit back and watch. Let’s just hope that with all the TV drama turned real life, we don’t see even one hint of a glittering fang on the news because we did not sign up to live in Forks, Mystic Falls or Bon Temps.

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