(CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Critics have derided the political conventions as a glorified TV show for several election cycles. This year, that’s what it really truly is: a television production with live shots and short clips from all across the country.The Democrats’ big show begins on Monday — “the slimmed-down convention will be a mix of live and prerecorded speeches and highly produced visual elements,” the NYT’s Astead W. Herndon and Reid J. Epstein wrote Sunday. Their story carried a Milwaukee byline, but noted that “there will be no official business conducted in Milwaukee.” A virtual convention, indeed…Hundreds of live feedsFrom CNN’s Jessica Dean: “The Democrats’ virtual convention will feature hundreds of live feeds from across the country and four stage set-ups located in New York City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Wilmington, Delaware, according to a source who has seen recent convention plans.”Read More”The entirely virtual convention will feature emcees to lead the evening’s two hour program, with those people broadcasting primarily out of the LA studio, according to the source,” Dean wrote. “Additionally there will be live speakers from across the country every night broadcasting from historic and symbolic locations which will thematically reinforce their remarks.”>> The Daily Beast likened the convention to the DNC’s “Most Important Zoom Meeting” ever…Behind the scenes with Ricky KirshnerHundreds of people are producing this giant Zoom call. They are led by the DNC’s executive producer since 1992, Ricky Kirshner, who also produces Super Bowl halftime shows and Tony Awards telecasts. He told WaPo’s Michael Scherer, “Anything can happen. It is not scripted, I can tell you that. There is so much live in this show.”Some elements are scripted, though, of course — and some speeches are being recorded ahead of time. The live footage “will be mixed in real time with a roughly equal share of prerecorded performances, mini-documentaries and speeches,” Scherer wrote.And that’s a source of tension between the convention organizers and the TV networks. NBC, ABC and CBS have committed to one hour of convention coverage per night — the 10pm ET hour. Cable channels like CNN have scheduled special coverage all evening — but that doesn’t mean the convention TV show will automatically break through. “The new circus” could flop “if the broadcast and cable networks have their on-air talent talk over all of the carefully prepared set pieces and less-partisan viewers decide to dismiss the spectacle as an overlong propaganda film,” Scherer wrote.No doubt loyal Democrats will watch the official DNC live stream on the web, and Republicans will do the same a week from now. But what moments will break through for a broader audience? We shall see…Why the conventions matterThese comments in George Winslow’s Broadcasting & Cable cover story hit the nail on the head:>> ABC’s senior EP for special events Marc Burstein: “With the issues the country is facing right now with the coronavirus and the economic decline and the racial unrest, the conventions will provide voters with plans for how each party plans to tackle these problems and what the country is going to look like under a Democratic president or a Republican president.”>> CBS News political director Caitlin Conant: The conventions “will let the candidates basically reintroduce themselves to America and bring the focus back to politics.”