Media outlets nationwide are challenged to find fresh angles for the 50th
anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, but NBC affiliates have a chance to air a unique bit of American
history. Meet the Press has created
“MTP Remembers: JFK — The Presidential
Campaign” out of three Kennedy appearances
on the Sunday-morning staple,
and has made the special available to
NBC’s owned stations and affiliates.
On MTP, Kennedy spoke about a range of topics, including
civil rights, the Cold War, the fundamental differences
between the Republican and Democratic parties
and choosing an effective VP in case the president’s
health fails. Rob Yarin, executive producer of Meet the
Press, said Kennedy’s appearances — all three are from
his presidential campaign in 1960 — are both fascinating
and prescient. “It’s very interesting to see some of
the things he predicted come true,” said Yarin.
The MTP Remembers concept was hatched last
summer, when Yarin in August fashioned a Martin Luther
King Jr. special tied to the 50th anniversary
of the March on Washington and
King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Yarin
asked WRC Washington news director Michael
Goldrick if there was interest in airing
the special (NBC News and WRC share a
building); the answer was a resounding yes.
The MLK special was made available to affiliates
as well and got healthy buy-in; it aired on stations
reaching 76% of U.S. homes. “It’s one of the great
things a show like Meet the Press allows us to do,”
said Valari Staab, president of NBC Owned Television
Stations. “It’s always been like one of [the
Owned Stations’] very own shows.”
Staab said the MLK special got higher ratings in
some NBC markets than Meet the Press itself. “People
[were] definitely intrigued by it,” she said. “It got
a lot of press as well.”
Thumbs-Up From Affiliates
The JFK special had a similar 75% of the nation
cleared at presstime. WDIV Detroit, for one, has it
set for Nov. 17 at noon, while KSNV Las Vegas will
air it Nov. 23 at 5:30 p.m. Yarin calls it a “tremendous
response” from the affiliates.
Jordan Wertlieb, NBC affiliates board chairman,
said the partner stations are fortunate to have such
an asset available. “Meet the Press is an institutional
program that has been a significant part of the discourse
shaping our country for more than 65 years,”
said Wertlieb, who is president of Hearst Television.
“MTP Remembers: JFK is an excellent way to commemorate
this important event.”
Lee Meredith, VP and general manager of Raycom’s
WMC Memphis, said MTP: MLK did a 1.5 household
rating coming out of late news on a Sunday — not a
monster number, he said, but standout content nonetheless.
MTP: JFK will air on WMC Nov. 16 at noon.
“I’m of that age where I grew up with television and
remember these huge events, and the role television
played in these events,” Meredith said. “To be able to
see some of this stuff is great. I’d love to have more.”
Stations are free to come up with their own relevant
additive programming. NBC’s KXAS Dallas created the
iPhone app JFK 50: NBC 5 Remembers, which offers
its own archival footage of the president’s fateful visit
to Dallas; KXAS was live for three days after the fatal
shooting. The app also will allow users to live-stream
the ceremony taking place in Dallas to mark the anniversary.
“By combining today’s technology with our
deep station archives, we know this app will be of keen
interest to those individuals who remember that day in
1963, as well as those seeking a better understanding
of this critical landmark in our country’s history,” said
Tom Ehlmann, KXAS president and general manager.
The deep Meet the Press archive will allow for subsequent
specials, perhaps airing on a quarterly schedule.
Those include one focused on interviews with
sitting presidents and another centered on military
leaders, likely airing around Memorial Day. “Meet the
Press has been on for 66 years,” Yarin said. “We certainly
have a lot of material to draw from.”
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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