Sandusky, Giffords interviews give networks a ratings bump

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

Network news outlets aired three buzzed-about interviews on television last night at 10 p.m.--leaving viewers to juggle remotes, DVRs and Twitter feeds to consume them all.

On NBC, Bob Costas' explosive, somewhat impromptu "Rock Center" interview with Jerry Sandusky--the former Penn State coach accused of child rape drew a great deal of attention. Over on ABC, meanwhile, Diane Sawyer's long-in-the-works exclusive with Rep. Gabby Giffords--the Arizona congresswoman who survived being shot in the head earlier this year--won big ratings.

The ABC News sitdown with Sawyer, Giffords and husband Mark Kelly topped the 10 p.m. ET hour, according to Nielsen overnight ratings. The "20/20" special scored a 9.0 rating/10 share household rating and a 3.9 rating/9 share in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic--drawing about 13 million total viewers.

NBC's "Rock Center" with Costas' grilling of Sandusky scored a 3.0 rating/5 household--drawing about 4.5 million viewers, or 30 percent more than the weekly newsmagazine drew last week.

As TVNewser noted, NBC had "just two hours to alert potential viewers to the Bob Costas interview of Jerry Sandusky." By contrast, ABC promoted its Giffords exclusive for weeks.

Over on cable, Fox News' Greta Van Susteren had an exclusive interview with Herman Cain's wife--which also aired also at 10 p.m.--that won in its timeslot, but lost 32 percent of viewers that were watching "Hannity" the hour. That dropoff was likely due, at least in part, to the Sandusky and Giffords exclusives on the network side.

CNN touted its interview with Sandusky's lawyer Joe Amendola on Monday's "AC 360" as an exclusive, though Amendola was in the studio for "Rock Center" interview with Sandusky, and was interviewed by Costas, too.

On Tuesday, CBS--perhaps feeling a bit left out of the buzz from the night before--was touting its own exclusive with Mike McQueary, the former Penn State grad assistant who said he witnessed Sandusky rape an underage boy in one of the school's shower facilities. The brief interview--conducted Armen Keteyian--was scheduled to air on the "CBS Evening News."

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