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Some TV Networks Prepare to Offer Comey Testimony Without Commercials

Variety logo Variety 6/7/2017 Brian Steinberg
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If it isn’t already clear, no one can buy James Comey. Tomorrow, the former FBI chief will testify before Congress on several TV networks who won’t let advertisers buy into his time on air.

CBS, CNN and Fox News Channel are among the TV outlets who will air Comey’s much-anticipated testimony before Congress about his interactions with President Donald Trump without commercial interruption. In doing so, the networks are signaling just how important the event is to the American public. The networks often interrupt regular coverage for events of national importance, but taking ads out of the equation ratchets up the significance of the proceedings.

CNN plans to run the Comey testimony without ads, according to a person familiar with the situation, but could shift to commercial time when natural breaks in the coverage all for it. Viewers who want to use a CNN live-stream of the proceedings will not have to authenticate a subscription to a cable or satellite provider, but will be served a pre-roll streaming video ad, allowing advertisers to market to what is believed to be a significant digital audience for the event.

The testimony is expected to take up a good chunk of Thursday’s mid-to-late morning.  CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS and Fox are expected to transmit it via broadcast, while Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg, CSPAN and CNBC will cover it via cable. Vacating the airwaves of ad pitches could potentially eliminate tens of thousands of dollars in ad revenue.

Broadcast and cable-TV networks lost a combined $313.2 million in ad revenue while they covered Sept. 11, 2001, and its aftermath. according to an analysis done by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, a tracker of ad spending now known as Kantar. On Sept. 11 itself, the networks lost $84.6 million. The money involved in this situation is likely to be significantly less.

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