November 2nd, 2014
03:26 PM ET

Network news walks the high wire along with Nik Wallenda

Brian Stelter explains how a tight-rope walker's stunt, election night and "The View" are all connected. (Hint: they're all live events.)

Here's what he said:

Finally this morning, a note about the power of live, big event TV. The big truth of TV these days is that it is fragmenting, and people are watching more and more programming on-demand. But there is a countertrend in the other direction.

And that is why, tonight, when I am supposed to be up in Boston, I am going to stop whatever I am doing at 7:00. I'm going to get to a TV and I'm going to turn on the Discovery channel.

Discovery is airing "Skyscraper Live." It's the latest and greatest stunt by Nik Wallenda, the wire walker who previously made it across Niagara Falls and a gorge near the Grand Canyon. This time, he is walking between three buildings in Chicago; 13 million viewers watched his canyon walk last year, and that was just in the U.S.! Many more watched overseas.

A tightrope walk is a little bit like a football game or an election night, in the sense that it is a TV event. It's the kind of thing you have to watch live, not on-demand. And we're going to see more of this as networks try to keep our live attention.

Now here is how this relates to the news business. You might be surprised to hear that the coverage of Wallenda's walk is not being produced by Discovery. It's being produced by NBC News, by a unit called Peacock Productions. Now, they don't make news in the traditional sense, like the "NBC News Nightly" sense. But they do make nonfiction programming for lots of channels.

The hope, well, at least my hope, is that the money Discovery pays for stuff like "Skyscraper Live" helps over time pay for "The Nightly News."

And this is true at other channels as well and other networks as well. This week, ABC announced that the talk show "The View" is now going to be overseen by the news division, instead of entertainment.

"The View" is not really news in the traditional sense, but it is nonfiction programming. And bringing me back to my original point about Wallenda's walk, it is live. On its best days, "The View" is big, must-see, live TV programming, just what the networks want and need these days.

Filed under: Reliable Sources
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