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  TV ratings for CBS, NBC and ABC during flights

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Author Topic:   TV ratings for CBS, NBC and ABC during flights
Space Cadet Carl
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Posts: 87
From: Lake Orion, Michigan
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 11-24-2014 09:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Space Cadet Carl   Click Here to Email Space Cadet Carl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone know which American network had the highest ratings and most viewers during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo eras?

I recall during the Gemini flights of 1965 and 1966, I preferred to watch the NBC crew of Frank McGee, David Brinkley and Jim Hartz. Gulf Oil was the major sponsor of NBC's coverage.

However during the Apollo era of 1967 to 1972, I mostly watched CBS's coverage with the legendary Walter Cronkite. Once in a while I would check out ABC's coverage with Frank Reynolds and Jules Bergman.

But who was the "ratings king" with the most viewers during those years?

moorouge
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From: U.K.
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posted 11-26-2014 10:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Slightly off topic. On this side of the pond in the early days we listened to either VOA or AFN broadcasts of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo flights. They were very informative and had full access to all the flight communications links. In fact, my preferred option, when both were available, was BBC pictures but VOA sound.

On edit - VOA = Voice of America; AFN = American Forces Network.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 11-26-2014 10:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Space Cadet Carl:
But who was the "ratings king" with the most viewers during those years?
From Broadcasting & Cable about Apollo 11:
Although there is no way to count the audience abroad, a plethora of figures is available in the U.S.

National Trendex ratings for the extensive coverage Sunday (July 20), 12 noon to 11 p.m., put CBS in the lead with a 22 rating, 45 share. NBC had a 16.8 rating, 34 share, and ABC a 6.7 rating, 14 share.

National Arbitron figures for 11 a.m. Sunday through 6 p.m. Monday showed CBS leading with a 19.9 rating, 45 share, followed by NBC with 14.8, 33, and ABC with 6.8, 15.

For the splash-down period, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Thursday (July 24), CBS led the national Arbitrons with a 21.3 rating, 51 share. NBC had a 13.6 rating, 33 share, and ABC a 5.1 rating, 12 share.

Local New York Nielsen ratings for the 42 hours of network coverage throughout the moon mission show NBC and CBS tied with an 11.6 rating, 43 share, and ABC with a 3.7 rating, 14 share. New York Arbitrons put NBC on top with a 10.5 rating, 44 share, compared to CBS's 9.7 rating, 40 share, and ABC's 3.8 ratings, 16 share.

Jonnyed
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From: Dumfries, VA, USA
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posted 11-26-2014 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jonnyed   Click Here to Email Jonnyed     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How did the Apollo 13 time of peril network coverage compare with typical coverage of other missions? Was one network recognized as better than others during that time? Do you have the viewage numbers? I imagine, of course, that Apollo 13 coverage skyrocketed when everyone became concerned for the three astronauts' survival.

NukeGuy
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From: Irvine, CA USA
Registered: May 2014

posted 11-26-2014 05:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NukeGuy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For me, the best reception in those pre-cable days was the local NBC affiliate. NBC had great theme music to open their Apollo-era broadcasts. I wish I could find a recording of it. The theme music changed around Apollo 16 (and not for the better IMHO). Gulf Oil also had great theme music that apparently went back to the Gemini days before I caught the space bug.

I would guess that CBS had the best ratings. Walter Cronkite seemed to be the most enthusiastice about manned spaceflight.

micropooz
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From: Washington, DC, USA
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posted 11-26-2014 07:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for micropooz   Click Here to Email micropooz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NukeGuy brings up an interesting point — back in the "antenna" days of TV, reception often dictated what one watched. In my hometown (Wichita, KS) CBS came in fuzzy at best, so I usually watched NBC and switched to ABC for short bits when NBC went to commercial.

As far as theme music goes — I remember ABC using Apollo 100's rendition of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" as the lead-in to their coverage of either Apollo 16 or 17. It lit a spark in me then, and is still front-and-center on my iPod...

Michael Davis
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From: Houston, Texas
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posted 11-28-2014 12:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Davis   Click Here to Email Michael Davis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My experience was similar. I was raised on a farm in rural Kentucky. We could not reliably receive NBC broadcasts, so the entire Apollo program was viewed on either ABC or CBS. I developed an affinity for ABC primarily because I liked the Frank Reynolds and Jules Bergman team. Plus I always looked forward to seeing Bergman use a blowtorch on a model of the Command Module to demonstrate reentry.

As an aside, not being able to receive NBC probably shaped other aspects of my early life. Roughly one third of television culture during that era was completely lost to me. For instance, one of my first crushes was on Elizabeth Montgomery of "Bewitched" (ABC) as opposed to Barbara Eden of "I Dreamed of Jeannie" (NBC).

alanh_7
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From: Ajax, Ontario, Canada
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posted 11-28-2014 01:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I live in Canada but we received the signals for the US stations through the Buffalo affiliates. I recall the old bunny ears and ghostly black and white images. Reception was awful on all stations but CBS was the best so we watched it. And I always liked Wally Schirra and Walter Cronkite anyway I also use to enjoy the live simulations with Leo Krupp and Scott Macleod.

MarylandSpace
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posted 11-28-2014 03:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MarylandSpace   Click Here to Email MarylandSpace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by NukeGuy:
Gulf Oil also had great theme music that apparently went back to the Gemini days before I caught the space bug.
For the Gulf Oil Commercial which was sung by the Clancy Brothers, go to YouTube and type in 1960's Classic Gulf Oil Commercial.

mach3valkyrie
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From: Albany, Oregon USA
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posted 11-29-2014 03:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mach3valkyrie   Click Here to Email mach3valkyrie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Bringin' Home the Oil" was the tune dating from 1969. It was played during the Apollo 17 moon landing (NBC) which I recorded off the TV on a cassette.(new technology then).

In the Gemini and Apollo days, I split coverage between CBS & NBC about equally, mainly due to signal reception on the old antenna. Rarely did a clear picture come in.

moorouge
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From: U.K.
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posted 11-29-2014 03:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The general gist of the replies surprises me. Didn't you guys think of trying good old fashioned steam radio? As I said earlier, short wave reception in Europe of VOA was both clear and reliable.

GACspaceguy
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From: Guyton, GA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 11-29-2014 07:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by alanh_7:
I live in Canada but we received the signals for the US stations through the Buffalo affiliates.
I too grew up in Canada but further north and there was only one station CBC, Canadian Broadcast Corporation (as a kid I always wondered what those other numbers on the dial were for).

CBC carried the CBS feed so that was all we could watch, Walter and Wally were a great combination, but when they went to commercial we had Loyd Robertson.

Cozmosis22
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From: Texas * Earth
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posted 11-30-2014 09:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It appears as though there was some sort of "pecking order" established at the Cape. (NBC, CBS, ABC, AP)

Orientation for this image was NASA Press buildings adjacent to the left. VAB is off across the street to the right.

Dwight
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From: Germany
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posted 12-17-2014 04:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwight   Click Here to Email Dwight     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A bit late in the discussion, I know, but AR Hogan did a thesis on the very topic.

mooncollector
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From: Alabama, USA
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posted 12-20-2014 10:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mooncollector   Click Here to Email mooncollector     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My experience is much like the OP's. Our household was NBC all the way in the early (Gemini) days when they had the rotating earth-to-Gulf Oil morph graphic. Somehow it shifted as Apollo dawned and Uncle Walter OWNED the moon landings on TV. CBS seemed to get ahead of the pack with simulations and mockups, and they brought in Schirra who really went along with Cronkite very well.

CBS always seemed to me to want a New Age/ futuristic feel to their Apollo coverage, more so than the other two networks who were more utilitarian. Chet Huntley and/or Frank McGee just seemed ill-suited to cover space flight personality-wise.

Cozmosis22
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From: Texas * Earth
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posted 12-26-2014 11:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NBC launch broadcast center to the right and the old NASA Press Dome to the left.

ea757grrl
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From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 12-26-2014 03:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NBC's Chet Huntley and David Brinkley weren't at their best covering spaceflight, I think because it was too technical (and too futuristic) a story and they didn't feel comfortable "owning" it. David Brinkley in particular didn't seem engaged by it, as evidenced by his covering the Apollo 11 launch from KSC. They preferred to hand it over to reporters like Frank McGee or Peter Hackes, who were engaged by it and knew the story well. Cronkite, of course, was all over it at CBS, and ABC always had Jules Bergman close at hand.

CBS had several advantages in its coverage, including relationships with North American-Rockwell and Grumman to have live remotes from full-size simulations featuring company engineers. The network also had some very artistically-inclined producers and directors (Joel Banow, who directed most of the Special Events coverage during the Apollo era, was one of many who had a particular influence on it), and CBS itself prided itself on looking classy and distinctive. Space coverage at CBS was a source of pride and stops were pulled out, and anybody who's seen a copy of "10:56:20 PM EDT 7/20/1969" knows what a point of pride it was for the network.

There was also another constraint NBC faced - most of its coverage originated from Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (the same one where "Saturday Night Live" originates now). Although it's a huge studio, it's smaller than you'd think, as anyone who's taken the NBC tour knows. And being on the eighth floor of 30 Rock's Studio Building, everything has to fit into a comparatively small freight elevator, if I recall correctly about the size of a hospital elevator. The mock-ups had to be modularized for reassembly in the studio and then disassembled - and although they still got the job done, they weren't quite as impressive as those CBS had through the live remotes from the manufacturers at Downey and Bethpage. ABC faced its own constraints as the third place and not-so-wealthy but up-and-coming network, too, and thus didn't have the resources the other two had.

Blackarrow
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From: Belfast, United Kingdom
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 12-27-2014 11:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by moorouge:
...short wave reception in Europe of VOA was both clear and reliable.

I have short-wave recordings off VOA of part of Dave Scott's stand-up EVA, and the beginning of the first Apollo 17 EVA as Gene Cernan climbed down the ladder. No TV was available for either event.

That reminds me: someone recently told me that the Apollo 15 stand-up EVA recording might be quite rare. Really?

Go4Launch
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From: Seminole, Fla.
Registered: Jul 2003

posted 12-27-2014 09:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regarding the two photos of the LC-39 Press Site mound above, the NBC and ABC buildings were both built for the shuttle program.

During Apollo, NBC operated from a trailer complex where its building is now, and ABC had a much smaller facility. Only CBS had two stories.

As the Press Site faces two pads three miles away and 20 degrees apart, no network location had any real advantage over another.

Cozmosis22
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Posts: 467
From: Texas * Earth
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posted 12-31-2014 02:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cozmosis22     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Newspaper clipping from the Mercury era. This report was previewing the television coverage of the upcoming flight of John Glenn. At that point one can see that NBC was the most interesting option.

mooncollector
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From: Alabama, USA
Registered: Feb 2011

posted 12-31-2014 09:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mooncollector   Click Here to Email mooncollector     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Who did ABC utilize as their anchor during the Mercury/early Gemini period? I know that Bergman did not rise to prominence in that network until after the JFK assassination when he was just a man-in-the-street junior reporter. I don't recall seeing clips of Swayze or Howard K Smith ever doing any space reporting either.

I have zero personal recollection of any ABC News broadcasts until about 1970 (I was just a young child then).

All times are CT (US)

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