Cronkite was back on the air later that afternoon, and by the end of the day the decision had been made, by all three networks, to suspend all commercials and entertainment programs until after Kennedy's funeral. Thus, by nightfall, the nation was locked into what, in retrospect, still stands out as the most extraordinary weekend in the history of television.
With the decision to turn continuous air time over to the network news departments, TV journalism was suddenly faced with with a challenge far greater than any it had previously experienced. Because of the triumph it achieved in meeting that challenge, television news would never be regarded in quite the same way again. It is no exaggeration to say that during those four days in November 1963, TV journalism came into is full maturity. What's more, its performance that weekend provided a clear glimpse into the future. In the years ahead, television would come to be recognized as the dominant voice in American journalism, the prime source from which the majority of Americans received their news. - Air Time
Kennedy Coverage Not Made for Prime Time
But beyond the Beltway and Midtown media organizations, how did the Kennedy coverage play? Ratings reflect that while Americans surely caught the coverage in some capacity, most still use prime time to escape the world’s woes, including the death of the senate’s most influential member.
Which explains how CBS’s “Ted Kennedy: The Last Brother” finished last amongst the Big Four networks at 8 p.m. in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, and how ABC’s “Remembering Ted Kennedy” lost to two forgettable reruns of cop dramas on CBS and NBC at 10 p.m.
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