Powered by i.TV
October 22, 2014

Note to the Networks: William and Kate Won't Be As Big as Chuck and Di

by Joel Keller, posted Nov 18th 2010 5:30PM
Prince William and Kate Middleton in their first interview after announcing their engagement
As the morning news shows breathlessly came on the air Tuesday morning with their "Breaking News" about the engagement of England's Prince William to his long-time girlfriend, Kate Middleton, I got an eerie feeling. I flashed back to 1981, when the engagement of William's parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, sent shock waves throughout both the US and the UK.

I was only ten years old at the time, but it's not hard to recall how captivated the US was by the couple, and by the prospects of viewing a royal wedding on live television. The country was going through a rough time; a divisive president was in the White House, the country was in the throes of a recession, and the country was under constant threat of attack.

Sound like a familiar scenario? It does to the news divisions of the various broadcast networks, because they're hoping against hope that the William/Kate wedding will be as big or bigger than the Charles/Di wedding, which drew an estimated 750 million viewers worldwide. "I think this (wedding's audience) is going to be close to (the Charles/Di audience). Maybe bigger," 'Good Morning America' executive producer Jim Murphy told the New York Post yesterday.

But it's not 1981 anymore. Which makes me wonder if the network's overheated coverage of this engagement is just an exercise in wishful thinking on their part.

Once the news was out, the networks went into blanket coverage mode, with all three morning shows sending anchors to London to cover the story (Erica Hill on CBS, Natalie Morales on NBC, Bianna Golodryga on ABC). CBS dedicated a portion of 'The Early Show' to the Kate/William story, and last night NBC dedicated an hour last night to telling the story, complete with an interview with Piers Morgan.

Some estimates have put the worldwide TV audience for the William/Kate wedding at 1 billion people. That just seems like an outlandish number in this day and age, doesn't it? We're in a television landscape where if a network show draws seven million people, it's considered a hit. That's about 2.3% of this country's population. To even come close to approaching that 1 billion number, the wedding will likely have to attract the vast majority of people in the US to gather around the TV, just like they did in the three-channel and pre-web world of 1981, and watch the wedding live.

Can you see that happening? Neither can I. Not as many people care about the royals as they did in those heady days of the early '80s. Even if a lot of people are interested, what will likely happen is that people will stream the wedding on Hulu or view clips of it on their phones or iPads. Sure, those are revenue generators for the networks, but that revenue isn't nearly what the ad revenue from a gigantic TV audience would attract.

I asked two of our resident Brits, Laura Prudom and Catherine Lawson, if the coverage of the engagement in the UK is as breathless as it is here. They both felt that the coverage in the US was a bit more fawning than the coverage in the UK, as they seem to be more obsessed with Middleton's "commoner" upbringing rather than the love story or who will design Kate's wedding dress.

"While our US cousins are concerned with the glamor of the occasion and the romanticism of royalty, the UK press is much more interested Kate's suitability and her breeding," wrote Laura, who currently lives in LA. "Is she good enough for William? Does the queen approve? How much will their wedding cost, in these harsh economic times?"

Catherine, who lives in the UK, pointed out to me that the US networks' fanfare for the royal engagement hasn't slipped the attention of broadcasters where she lives. "BBC Radio's been making fun of US coverage -- one morning show (I don't know which) played a fanfare introducing their coverage, which news producers here thought was hilarious."

It's not like the news networks over there haven't been giving it blanket coverage; Catherine wrote that Sky News -- News Corp's cable news channel in the UK -- ran with the story for the first 24 hours and entertainment channel Sky 1 ran an 8PM special. But things have gone back more or less to normal already, while the morning news shows here are still running multiple stories about the engagement.

Will there be a huge TV audience watching these crazy kids get married? Sure. People are suckers for a good romance, and the legacy of William's mother Diana is still strong enough that a lot of people are going to be curious to see him get married to his college sweetheart. It just won't captivate the country the way Charles and Diana did.

With two wars going on, people getting patted down at the airport, and unemployment still hovering near 10 percent, many Americans are just not going to care about some lavish wedding between two beautiful people a whole ocean away. That's just a sign of the times, a concept the network news divisions fail to embrace on a daily basis.

Will you be watching the Prince William / Kate Middleton wedding? Have the networks gone overboard with their coverage?

(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

17 Comments

Filter by:
ingenoue

John, you are correct. Charlie wishing to be a tampon is a scary thought for the English when/if he becomes king. Especially since it was him speaking. They couldn't 'bury' that. I find it interesting Diana needed to be dead before he could be king/ head of the Church of England while Diana lived.

November 23 2010 at 7:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
PAUL

THE ROYAL WEDDING IS A JOKE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE TAXPAYING PUBLIC IN ENGLAND..WHILE MILLIONS IN THE WORLD ARE IN NEED OF FOOD AND CLOTHES.. THE BRITS WILL SPEND MILLIONS FOR A FAKE CEREMONY OF THEIR ROYALTY. WHAT A WASTE,

November 23 2010 at 7:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jean Boles

To me it is lesson in 20th Century history. I remember when the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth was brought to the U.S. The TV film tapes were flown to the U. S., one reel at a time, for live U.S. Television telecast. Walter Cronkite was one of the Commentators who stressed the historic significance as well as the social.
We lived in Africa when Charles & Diana married. South Africa was at a standstill; TV sets were in every store in town so if you had to shop, you did not miss a thing.
We lived in Canada when Andrew & Sara wed. I was invited to share the event with several "Brits" who are now official "Canadians." They all dressed in English Tea Garden attire (Think Ascot) for the wedding.
We are back in the U.S. and I plan to watch the William & Kate wedding.
Since the U.S. is not a monarchy, we have a soft spot for the rest of the world's monarchies. Remember how much coverage the wedding of Prince Rainier & Grace Kelly received here?
Watch the wedding and pay close attention to the history of the ring, the church, tiaras,the carriage, etc.
Have a history lesson!!! JAG

November 22 2010 at 3:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
marry him you fool

Front the article it states Kate's "suitability and breeding", Are they speaking of a farm animal or a young woman?

November 22 2010 at 2:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
marry him you fool

Question? Didn't your parents teach you that if you didn't have anything nice to say, to not say anything at all?

November 22 2010 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donna

I watch Princess Diana and charles wedding, it was beautiful. But times have changed so much.
I have lost most respect for that family.
But I do wish this young couple all of the best.

November 22 2010 at 11:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MAGOOS

The British probably do have a much lower key in respect to news coverage of this event; the British have a low key attitude to most things. America, a nation who could not get rid of monarchy fast enough, take the lead in fawning over the affair and promote it with the usual unique drama found in their news networks. The former British colonies adopt a similar attitude to the British as they still have a respect for the Monarchy depite most having become republics. If the royal event can give tons of pleasure to American viewers, it is a worthwhile thing. After all, the only thing America, by choice, does not have in this world is a monarchy to look to, other than the ersatz one created by their political and industrial elite. And this elite would still look drab, even in ermine trimmed capes and crowns.

November 22 2010 at 11:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
PAULA

I DO NOT GIVE A BIG RATS ASS ABOUT THE ROYAL WEDDING, I DID WATCH DI AND CHUCK'S WEDDING ONLY BECAUSE I DID'NT HAVE CABLE BACK IN THOSE DAYS. AND THAT MARRIAGE WAS A BUNK. SPENDING 75 MILLION A WEDDING, WHEN PEOPLE ARE STARVING TO DEATH IN THIS WORLD IS INSANE, GIVE SOME OF THAT MONEY TO THE POOR WHERE IT WILL DO SOME GOOD.

November 22 2010 at 9:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dawn

I don't get it!!!! Who cares. The " royal" family isn't anything.. They live off of the tax paying citizens, they don't work, the don't make rules or laws... What is the big thing? How can people look at them like they are somebody? They are glorified welfare recipients.

November 22 2010 at 8:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dawn's comment
Lizz

YOU ARE SO WRONG AND TAKE IT FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS!!!
The ROYAL FAMILY,otherwise known as the "Firm", bring
millions of visitors to England.What do these visitors do when they come??? Well, spend money of course. They are the Best tourist attraction some place could have.While I do not agree with everything about the "Royals", let me tell you sunshing Princess Anne the Queens Daughter works the hardest of the lot of them. So please do not comment on something you clearly know nothing about. I on the other hand DO!!!!

November 22 2010 at 7:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Donna

Prince William has always been the darling of the Royal Family and he's still well-loved worldwide so I believe interest will be as high, or even higher, than his parents' wedding. His nuptials will have mass appeal and, depending on when the ceremony takes place, the ratings will be though the roof.

You must also remember that there are millions of women, and probably millions of men, who will be heartbroken when Wills is off the market so they'll definitely want to watch. With their dreams of being with him coming to an end, and their fantasies forever dashed, they will watch whilst crying in their pints as they bid him a fond, sad adieu.

I know I will!

November 19 2010 at 3:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Follow Us

From Our Partners