TRUMP TRIAL UPDATE: At the time I'm hitting send on this email, 11:30pm ET, the Senate remains in session as the Democrats propose a raft of amendments to obtain additional evidence against President Trump. Here's a full look at media coverage of the trial, plus the rest of the day's media and tech news...
Cable news trial
So much has changed since the Bill Clinton impeachment trial. People, including some rule-bending senators, have computers strapped to their wrists nowadays. Places like the Capitol have geotags. Print newspapers have faded from prominence. Phones have completely changed media habits. Propaganda outlets have huge audiences on the internet, thanks in part to those phones.
But the primary difference between the Clinton and Trump trials might just be broadcast versus cable. In the late 90s, broadcast TV was still dominant. CNN was the only cable news channel with a significant audience. Fox News and MSNBC were just getting started. Fox News execs now look back and say Clinton's impeachment was the first sign of a pulse for the channel.
Twenty years later, Trump is a cable news president and the impeachment trial is a cable news spectacle. The broadcast networks carried the first few hours of Tuesday's proceedings, but reverted to regular programming by the evening. I checked in with NBC, ABC and CBS on Tuesday and came away with the impression that they'll only break into prime time programming if there's big breaking news. So the blow-by-blow trial coverage will unfold on cable and online. The winter's best TV drama will primarily be on cable...
Streaming too, but...
Numerous news websites are also streaming the trial live. The CNN homepage is carrying a live stream of its TV coverage. WaPo is producing live coverage from its newsroom. PBS is simulcasting its coverage on YouTube. And those are just a few examples.
But: Viewership #'s for debates, rallies and other events suggests that streaming is a supplement for most news consumers, not a replacement. The vast majority of news viewing happens via TV, not via streaming. Keep that in mind when the broadcast networks refer viewers to their streaming services, as they're all doing for trial coverage...
Fox reverts to pro-Trump opinion in prime time
Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum anchored Fox News coverage of the trial throughout the afternoon and most of the evening. In the 8pm hour, though, Tucker Carlson took over, and someone in his control room thought it would be a good idea to flash this banner on screen while Hakeem Jeffries was speaking: "DEMS PUSH HYSTERICAL TALKING POINTS AT TRIAL."
"Incredible," George Conway tweeted in response. "The managers’ presentations have been anything but hysterical. They have been factual, logical, dignified, and compelling."
Earlier in the evening, on Fox, Chris Wallace pressed Kellyanne Conway to explain why Trump's lawyers weren't using the available time to make a stronger case in Trump's defense...
Hannity: 'We are not going to torture you'
Sean Hannity must not have thought the day's proceedings were going well for Trump, because he cut in at 9:06pm and said "as warranted, we will dip in and out, but we are not going to torture you." He praised the president's made-for-TV lawyers but said "a lot of this" is "pointless, monotonous, redundant." While he spoke, CNN and MSNBC largely stuck with the live shots of the Senate chamber. Speaking of those live shots...
A "lo-fi view"
The opening hours of the trial "did not exactly make for visually compelling viewing," the NYT's Michael Grynbaum wrote. "For Republican Senate leadership, that was by design. Senate officials rejected repeated requests to allow outside cameras into the chamber to record the trial — meaning that what viewers see and hear will be dictated by cameras and microphones controlled by Senate staff members, rather than an independent news organization." Grynbaum called it a "constricted, lo-fi view..."
MSNBC's worthwhile reminder
Oliver Darcy emails: MSNBC used a small bug on the top left portion of the screen Tuesday to remind viewers that the network did not have control over the cameras. The small graphic noted the network was airing "Capitol Hill Senate TV."
Sketches instead of photos
In lieu of independent cameras, multiple news outlets employed sketch artists. The NYT published images by courtroom sketch artist Art Lien. And CNN shared images by Bill Hennessy...
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
-- "Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) on Tuesday voiced his 'extreme concern and discomfort' about restrictions placed on members of the press..." (WaPo)
-- As the trial progresses, the press "needs to center the facts of the case... Process is only valuable to the extent that it brings facts to the fore," Jon Allsop writes... (CJR)
"Yeah, we're making it hard"
"Yeah," Rep. Adam Schiff said to the senators in the 10pm ET hour, "we're making it hard for you. We're making it hard for you to say no. We're making it hard for you to say 'I don't want to hear from these people, I don't want to see these documents.' We're making it hard. It's not our job to make it easy..."
Where is Judge Napolitano?
Oliver Darcy emails: Guess who was missing (again) from Fox's special impeachment coverage? Judge Andrew Napolitano. Despite being the network's senior judicial analyst, who has for years served as the go-to for top legal stories, Napolitano was absent from Fox's coverage on the first day of the impeachment trial.
Napolitano has, of course, been highly critical of Trump's Ukraine dealings, saying that the President confessed to committing a crime. But instead of seeing him provide such analysis on Tuesday, Fox brought on Andrew McCarthy, a legal mind who is far more sympathetic to Trump's case...
Trump on CNBC and Fox Biz
POTUS is taping interviews with CNBC's Joe Kernen and Fox's Maria Bartiromo... The sit-downs will air Wednesday on CNBC and Fox Business Network's morning shows...
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
-- On CNN in the 11pm hour, David Gergen said the Democratic strategy has been smart: "They went for substance," not process. "They laid out the case" on a key night when the public is paying attention...
-- Susan Glasser says Trump's legal defense "was very much like the President himself: loud, intemperate, personally nasty, ad hominem, factually challenged, and often not even bothering to have a tenuous connection to the case at all..." (New Yorker)
-- "Under the surface, a series of real trials is going on," David A. Graham wrote. "Vulnerable senators sit in the dock, the jurors are voters, and the verdicts won't come back until November." (The Atlantic)
IN OTHER NEWS...
Brazil charges Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes
Oliver Darcy emails: Prosecutors in Brazil filed charges on Tuesday against Glenn Greenwald, alleging the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist aided in cybercrimes and "encouraged and oriented" hackers who tapped into the phones and messaging apps of some of the country's top officials. The charges came after a series of stories exposing corruption were published in 2019. Those stories were based on a trove of data that Greenwald had obtained.
In a statement, Greenwald derided the accusations, calling them "an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations" revealed in his stories. Greenwald's publication, The Intercept, also issued a statement, saying it was "appalled" at the "blatantly politically motivated charge against Greenwald." More in our story here...
Free press advocates condemn the charges
Darcy adds: The decision to charge Greenwald was roundly condemned by organizations advocating for press freedoms. Trevor Timm, exec director of Freedom of the Press Foundation (of which Greenwald sits on the board), said the "sham charges" cannot "be allowed to stand." Reporters Without Borders said the charges "demonstrate either complete ignorance as to what investigative journalism is, or an attempt to intimidate and retaliate against the free exercise of such critical journalism." And Natalie Soutwick of the Committee to Protect Journalists said such charges "sends a chilling message to reporters working on sensitive stories at a time when the Brazilian media is increasingly under attack from officials in its own government."
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- CNBC veteran John Harwood has joined CNN as a W.H. correspondent... Tuesday was his first day... (The Hill)
-- "Quibi CEO Meg Whitman lashed out against the media at an 'all-hands' staff meeting last Thursday, drawing an analogy between reporters who cultivate sources and sexual predators who prey on underage victims," Tom Dotan and Jessica Toonkel report... (The Information)
-- Whitman was apparently frustrated by a recent leak to those same two reporters. So don't miss the story in question, which was about "just how much of a high-stakes gamble Jeffrey Katzenberg is taking on Quibi..."
-- Data point of the day, via Nate Silver: "Amount spent on TV ads through the end of last week: Bloomberg, $180m. Steyer, $120m. All other Democrats combined, $43m..." (538)
Saudi government calls Guardian story 'absurd'
The Saudi government on Tuesday forcefully rejected a report in The Guardian newspaper that said "Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone 'hacked' in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message that had apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia." The Guardian cited "sources who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity" who knew about a "forensic analysis of Bezos's phone." The story doesn't say who conducted the analysis of the phone.
According to Stephanie Kirchgaessner's story, a WhatsApp message from a number used by Mohammed bin Salman included a malicious file which compromised the Amazon CEO and WaPo owner's phone. Following the message, a large volume of data was extracted from the phone, a source told Kirchgaessner.
Bezos chose to stay silent about the matter on Tuesday. When Oliver Darcy checked in following the report, Bezos declined to comment through a rep. The Saudi Embassy in Washington did respond, however, saying on Tuesday night, "Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out."
UN report coming Wednesday
According to The Guardian, the Bezos-Mohammed messages were exchanges in May 2018, five months before Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered. WaPo followed up on The Guardian's scoop on Tuesday evening and reported that "a United Nations investigation to be released Wednesday" will include the info about Bezos's phone being infected with malware "that was delivered via a message from Mohammed." The Post's story notes: It is unclear "whether the United Nations conducted its own forensic investigation or relied on work done by a consultant hired by Bezos or someone else..."
"Barstool Sports Settles With Labor Board Over Anti-Union Tweets"
That's the headline from Bloomberg Law's Andrew Wallender. "Four months after Barstool Sports co-founder David Portnoy drew criticism for posting anti-union tweets, the company reached an informal settlement with the National Labor Relations Board that calls for the deletion of the tweets and removal of other anti-union material created by the company," Wallender wrote Tuesday...
The Athletic's new $$$
Kerry Flynn writes: The Athletic raised $50 million in Series D funding, execs at the sports media company revealed to Sara Fischer on Tuesday. The company is now reportedly valued at $500 million.
>> Co-founder Adam Hansmann said he expects The Athletic to be profitable in 2020 and soon hit 1M subscribers worldwide. The company currently has 500 full-time employees...
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
By Kerry Flynn:
-- BuzzFeed is starting a pop-up Royals newsletter called The Royal Tea...
-- And on a related note, a BF spokesperson says Ellie Hall's "Here Are 20 Headlines Comparing Meghan Markle To Kate Middleton That May Show Why She And Prince Harry Are Cutting Off Royal Reporters" now has more than 8.6 million views, making it BuzzFeed News' most read story of the last two years...
-- Lucia Moses reports that Bloomberg has launched a new brand, Bloomberg Green, aimed at being the "definitive source" about capitalism and climate change... (BI)
-- Per Kali Hays, PopSugar's annual festival Play/Ground is coming back for a third year. Revenue has reportedly doubled each year, and Lisa Sugar says they expect to make a profit this time... (WWD)
-- Henry Chu is rejoining LATimes as deputy news editor, based in London... (Twitter)
Barbaro staying behind the mic at "The Daily"
Matthew Schneier's new NYMag profile of Michael Barbaro and "The Daily" is the best piece I've read about the NYT's "raging success" in the podcasting space. A few key sentences:
-- "More than 2 million listeners download each episode" of the podcast, "compared with the 443,000 who read the weekday paper in print."
-- "Even at a rate of one ad per show, The Daily's five shows per week would rake in $1 million a month or more, though one person familiar with the inner workings says the total is significantly higher."
-- Barbaro "recently renegotiated his position in light of the podcast's success, but he hasn’t signed with any of the agents who have called him."
-- Lisa Tobin "says she will begin to step back from the daily editing of the flagship show to focus on the expanding slate" of NYT podcasts... In the coming months, Sam Dolnick says, "he can envision a kids' show, an afternoon show, a politics show." Read the full feature here...
FOR THE RECORD, PART FIVE
-- Barbaro and Christiane Amanpour co-hosted the duPont-Columbia Award ceremony on Tuesday night in NYC... Here are highlights via the Twitter hashtag...
-- BTW, Amanpour mentioned that George Orwell died 70 years ago today...
-- Yashar Ali tweeted: "Jay Sures, a top agent to many of the biggest names in news and TV, has been reappointed to a 12 year term on the University California Board of Regents by Governor Gavin Newsom (my former boss). Jay will serve as a UC Regent through 2032..." (Twitter)
Netflix posts strong earnings, but the US is sluggish
Frank Pallotta writes: Like Netflix's own "Bandersnatch," its fourth quarter earnings were really a "Choose Your Own Adventure." On one side, Netflix exceeded its own expectations for global growth, adding roughly 8.7 million new subscribers in its fourth quarter. However, the company missed expectations in the United States and Canada, bringing in 420,000 new members in those markets, fewer than the 600,000 it projected. It blamed the domestic miss on recent price changes and streaming launches from competitors like Disney.
So how'd Netflix do? It depends on your POV. Netflix is a global company with global goals, but the sluggish domestic numbers can't be ignored especially as the streaming market gets more and more crowded...
>> Here's how the WSJ's Joe Flint and Micah Maidenberg put it: "Netflix has two very different stories to tell Wall Street at the moment. Its operations abroad look as promising as ever, without any sign of a significant competitive threat, while clouds are beginning to gather in the company's home market..."
By the #'s
Via Frank Pallotta, here are some of the other takeaways from Tuesday's earnings:
-- Reed Hastings again shot down advertising, saying that in the long term "there's not easy money there." He added that the company has a "much simpler business model which is just focused on streaming and customer pleasure..."
-- Ted Sarandos was asked on the company's post-earnings call about "Friends" leaving Netflix and if there's been any viewership impact. "Nothing that we see or can measure," Sarandos said...
-- Netflix said that "The Witcher," which stars Henry Cavill, is on track to be "our biggest season one TV series ever." The company said that through its first four weeks of release, 76 million member households "chose to watch" the show.
-- That # is eye-popping, but you'll need to take it with many grains of salt. Why? As Vulture's Joe Adalian points out, "chose to watch" in Netflix parlance means "watched at least 2 minutes of one episode." So 76 million households "sampled" Cavill's show...
Brian Lowry writes: Veteran TV reporters are surely tearing their hair out listening to Netflix keep spinning statistics about its viewing levels that don't directly equate to anything else in the TV business. But the truth is this: Nielsen ratings are so poorly understood that Netflix has been able to make carefully massaged claims and have them dutifully reported. I suppose it's hard to completely fault the company for continuing to game the system...
FOR THE RECORD, PART SIX
-- Disney "has bumped up the global launch of Disney+ by a week. It will now roll out in eight countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland on March 24," instead of March 31, Jordan Valinsky reports... (CNN)
-- Apple "is discussing making original podcasts related to programs on its Apple TV+ video streaming service..." (Bloomberg)
-- "Peggy Siegal Sends Her Regrets:" Maureen O'Connor interviewed Siegal about her past association with Jeffrey Epstein and how her publicity biz collapsed as a result. She references Nazi Germany. It's a must-read... (VF)
Hillary: "I thought everyone wanted my authentic, unvarnished views!"
Brian Lowry writes: Reviews on the new Hillary Clinton documentary are embargoed until after its Sundance premiere on Saturday. But the one thing that comes through loud and clear in "Hillary" is that while Clinton — toughened through years of scandal — has been trained to keep her guard up, she lets it down here at times, both in the behind-the-scenes footage shot during the 2016 campaign and her interviews. Hence the comments about Bernie Sanders that garnered so much attention on Tuesday.
-- I don't know how you could have possibly missed it, but here is the THR cover story that triggered a thousand Clinton-Sanders stories. Interviewer Lacey Rose quoted what Clinton says in the film -- "He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it" -- and asked if that assessment still holds. Clinton said it does...
-- Clinton's end-of-the-day tweet: "I thought everyone wanted my authentic, unvarnished views! But to be serious, the number one priority for our country and world is retiring Trump, and, as I always have, I will do whatever I can to support our nominee."
'Awkwafina is Nora From Queens' doesn't add to its star's current moment
Brian Lowry shares his newest review: Awkwafina has enjoyed a series of standout supporting roles, and a much-lauded starring one in the indie feature "The Farewell.” That makes her new TV series, "Awkwafina is Nora From Queens," a coup for Comedy Central. It's less clear, frankly, how the actress benefits from this semi-autobiographical show, which comes across as just another 20-something slacker comedy...
FOR THE RECORD, PART SEVEN
-- Ahead of Thursday's opening night gala premiere of "Taylor Swift: Miss Americana" at Sundance, Chris Willman interviewed Swift for this new Variety cover story...
-- In the interview, Swift "shared a sad update about her mother's battle with cancer," Lisa Respers France writes. "A brain tumor was discovered during her mother's course of treatment..." (CNN)
-- Another item from Lisa: Ozzy Osbourne went public with his Parkinson's disease diagnosis via a "GMA" interview with Robin Roberts... (CNN)
-- Chris McCarthy, head of ViacomCBS's sprawling Entertainment and Youth division, "has solidified his senior leadership team." Nina L. Diaz will be president of content and chief creative officer. Liza Burnett Fefferman will be exec VP of communications and will co-head MTV Documentary Films with Diaz. Lots more here... (Variety)
LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST...
"When you tune into music videos on CMT, you will now be met with an equal ratio of female and male artists. The Country Music Television station said that it would change their 40/60 video airplay ratio immediately." Here's what led up to the announcement...