Hyped in Orlando and nationally, Casey Anthony trial isn't yet a blockbuster in Tampa Bay
Looks like the court knew what it was doing when it set jury selection for the Casey Anthony trial in the Tampa Bay area.
Because, even though Anthony's Orlando-area murder trial has inspired continuous coverage on at least five major TV stations in that city and loads of national coverage, local television and radio outlets have been a lot more measured in their reporting.
I had a story in today's newspaper dissecting the dynamic, noting that at the murder trial's Orlando location, NBC affiliate WESH-TV on Wednesday joined all its major affiliate competitors in broadcasting the proceedings from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Orlando-area cable news channel Central Florida News 13 also shows the trial continuously.
The Today show on Thursday aired a breathless story about the media coverage, noting some anchor have come from far away as Japan and replaying the quote from the trial judge predicting attention dwarfing football star O.J. Simpson's murder trial.
But the story made me ask an important question: Is the sensational nature of the crime -- beautiful, young mother accused of brutally killing her child and partying while the world remains unaware -- making media outlets assume more interest than might be there?
Just a two-hour drive away in the Tampa Bay area, there's been much less media interest, with local cable news channel Bay News 9 as the only area TV outlet offering continuous trial coverage on its primary channel, basically airing the feed provided by CFN13. (Bay News 9 is a sister channel of CFN13; both are owned by the Bright House Networks cable company.) CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10 also airs a continuous feed of the trial on its secondary digital channel, 10.2.
On Monday, WTSP began airing an hourlong 4 p.m. program centered on the trial, showing live testimony and some analysis from a local attorney. Even though the program has averaged higher ratings than Inside Edition and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire earned in the time slot in May, it has just pulled WTSP into a tie for last place in the time slot.
It's a move which still makes sense for WTSP, which has been struggling with several low ratings in early evening newscasts and can provide trial coverage on broadcast TV for those who don't have service through Bright House (as a service owned by Bright House, Bay News 9 appears on that company's cable system).
And while daytime ratings for Bay News 9 during the trial also seems to have risen from their levels during May's sweeps period -- up to a .8 among viewers 25 to 54 from a .5 during the sweep, according to figures from WTSP -- the rise seems to indicate interest from an involved niche of viewers, rather than a broad-based deluge of attention.
In a way, the media situation seems similar to that of the royal wedding, attracting a significant audience niche to an event that is much less compelling to the majority of viewers. Especially now, as the trial is mired in technical expert testimony -- though Discovery Channel star Dr. Jan C. Garavaglia, known as "Dr. G.", added a little star power today.
Still, many media experts agree: If Casey Anthony takes the witness stand to testify in her own defense, interest in the trial could explode.
Below is a story where the local Fox affiliate quoted me to talk about the media frenzy. But I'm thinking there should be a distinction between media frenzy and viewer frenzy.