For Struggling TV Networks, Obama's a Cash Cow

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2009 7:47 AM CDT
President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo is broadcast on television screens at a shopping center in Jerusalem Thursday, June 4, 2009.   (AP Photo/Moti Milrod)
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(Newser) – The right might complain that television networks are in thrall to Barack Obama, but they have a good reason to be: the president is good for business. As Politico reports, Obama-related programs send ratings spiking—when he appeared on the Tonight Show, it had its best Friday night in 17 years, 60 MInutes its biggest show in 9 years, Face the Nation its best in 4 years. A-List stars boost ratings, and Obama, says one media buyer, is "the ultimate A-Lister."

He's not the first president to be such a draw; though it's easy to forget now, George W. Bush was pulling down millions of viewers in 2001 and 2002. But with advertising drying up, the networks are even keener for Obama to appear—and that means the White House has the freedom to promote what it wants where it wants. Still, there is one man still more powerful than the president: Simon Cowell, whose American Idol trounced an Obama special on ABC recently.