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Nets Prune Bush

Only ABC among the "Big Four" networks stayed with President George W. Bush through his entire press conference Thursday night.

CBS, Fox, and NBC all cut him off in mid-Social Security question--Bush had said it was the last question--when 9 O'clock rolled around.

The White House had asked for an hour, and those networks were in a hurry to get to their regular schedules--Apprentice for NBC, Simple Life for Fox, Survivor (delayed to 9) on CBS--on the first night of the sweeps.

The President seemed to anticipate the move in labeling the last question, saying: "I don't want to cut into some of those TV shows, for the sake of the economy."

The only one who stuck around was ABC, which stayed on beyond the conference for a special report to talk about the social security issue with This Week host George Stephanopoulos, legislators, and various correspondents.

ABC should be commended for its commitment to news, and on the first night of a key ratings period for setting ad rates, no less, but it was also a canny smart programming move.

Thursday is ABC's lowest-rated night of the week, so the more low-rated Thursday night programming it can exclude from its ratings book for the sweep, which, if memory serves, they can do with the "special report," the better.

Even if they have to count the report, it probably wouldn't severely underperform Extreme Makeover, which last week averaged a 1.6 rating/4 share at 9-10.