Networks prepare for inauguration

Marathon coverage plans in the works

Come Sunday, the cable news networks — and plenty of other outlets — will kick off a 72-hour marathon of Barack Obama coverage and programming tied to Tuesday’s inauguration of the nation’s 44th commander-in-chief.

From channels around the world to such Internet vidcasters as Hulu to the blogger brigade, the inaugural and related events will generate more video footage and reportage than ever before.

“This year, the inaugural (schedule) is bigger and more complex and vast than I’ve ever seen it,” said David Bohrman, CNN’s Washington bureau chief and a 30-year vet of presidential pomp and circumstance.

Of course, that’s partly because there are more purveyors of media than ever before — outlets like Hulu and Twitter didn’t exist four years ago — but it’s also fueled by the historic and undeniably charismatic nature of the president-elect. That same “it” factor made Obama’s candidacy such a boon for TV news ratings last year.

“You’ve got something that the public is really interested in: the first African-American president, a president coming in at a time of economic distress, a president coming in at a time of war,” said Don Rieck, executive director of the D.C.-based Center for Media and Public Affairs research org.

“There is something of a Camelot-y feel about the Obamas,” Rieck said.

MSNBC prexy Phil Griffin noted that the all-news cablers are under pressure to outdo one another’s coverage. It’s a challenge made more complicated by the fact that there are so many events and angles to capture this time around.

“This event helps build the next six months (of political coverage). We’ve got to do a good job,” Griffin said.

Now that the time has come for Obama’s official coronation, everyone wants a bit of his stardust to rub off on their brand, their cause or their network. The number of events taking place around the Beltway on Tuesday alone is staggering. CNN’s Bohrman said the cabler will juggle feeds from up to 50 remote locations on Inauguration Day.

Indeed, the opportunity to showcase the telegenic Obama family dressed in finery and surrounded by celebs and dignitaries is too tempting for many non-news outlets to pass up.

HBO swooped in to nab the rights to Sunday night’s star-packed inaugural weekend kickoff event at the Lincoln Memorial.

National Public Radio has the exclusive radio rights to the “We Are One” Lincoln Memorial concert, which will air live on its affiliate stations from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. ET. It will also be available as live audio stream on NPR affils’ websites.

Disney Channel is bringing the kids along Monday night with the “Kids Inaugural: We Are the Future” concert special hosted by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden. It’s designed as a tribute to military families, but it doesn’t hurt Disney’s cause that the special will be a prestigious showcase for its stars Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato, among others. (The Obama daughters, Sasha and Malia, might’ve had a hand in picking the talent for this one.)

Gary Marsh, prexy of entertainment for Disney Channel Worldwide, noted that Cyrus, the Jonas siblings and other Disney talent were eager to participate in the event.

“They are keenly aware of and fascinated by this historic presidency,” he said.

MTV has the exclusive TV rights to Tuesday night’s official Youth Inaugural Ball, sanctioned by the Presidential Inauguration Committee. The telecast will tubthump the efforts of the volunteer org ServiceNation, in keeping with Obama’s emphasis on enlisting youth in community service projects.

BET is throwing its own Tuesday night inaugural ball in partnership with Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance, which will be heavily featured in the cabler’s primetime coverage that night. For both BET and MTV, the events will yield a trove of video clips for their websites.

ABC is the TV home for Tuesday night’s “Neighborhood Ball,” which boasts Obama as its host (though certainly he’ll be the belle of numerous other balls that night).

The event — to feature performances by Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys and others — has been heavily promoted by the Presidential Inauguration Committee as a means of allowing “everyday Americans” to take part through locally hosted viewing parties. The two-hour spesh will be archived as a webcast that will include clips from various viewing parties across the country.

Even QVC is getting in on the action. Never one to miss a hard-sell opportunity, the home shopping channel will broadcast live from Washington throughout the day Tuesday to help move an array of commemorative Obama merchandise (while supplies last). QVC cut a deal with the Creative Coalition for exclusive TV rights to its inaugural ball on Tuesday.

The cable news networks will be wall-to-wall Washington on Tuesday, starting at dawn and running through primetime with blanket coverage of the myriad balls and related events. The Big Three nets will bump regular daytime programming for coverage of the swearing-in ceremony to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET through the inaugural parade expected to kick off around 2:30 p.m. ET; ABC, CBS and NBC will also carry primetime news specials that night.

The swearing-in ceremony will include a perf from Aretha Franklin and the invocation by the Rev. Rick Warren, the megachurch pastor who has been a controversial choice for the gig among some Obama supporters.

Hulu, the Webcaster jointly owned by News Corp. and NBC Universal, will carry a two-hour stream of Fox Broadcasting’s live coverage of the swearing-in ceremony from noon to 2 p.m. ET.

MSNBC has cut a deal with the Screenvision theater ad network to have its live coverage carried as a free, closed-circuit offering in selected theaters in 27 major cities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET. The cabler’s live coverage will also be simulcast in 650 Starbucks outlets in New York, San Francisco and Seattle from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET.

“In 2009, the word (for all-news outlets) is ubiquity,” MSNBC’s Griffin said. “We’re in places where you don’t normally see us.”

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