Cable networks crowd campaign trail

Wed Jan 9, 2008 7:32am EST
 
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By Gail Schiller

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Now that the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have launched the presidential race, non-news networks are piling on to document an election season seen as just too entertaining to pass up.

While outlets such as MTV and Comedy Central have long been using campaigns for programming fodder, newcomers to the presidential race are hoping TV viewers will cast their ballots with them -- especially given that the writers strike has shut down most original TV programming.

"This election is gearing up to be perhaps the most interesting TV series of the season, and everyone technically has the rights to it," said Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University.

Among the new entrants: the gay-themed Logo, women's cable channel WE tv, the Independent Film Channel (IFC), young men's channel Spike, and country music outlet CMT.

Logo entered the fray in August with a first-of-its-kind on-air forum on issues of importance to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community with Democratic presidential candidates including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson.

WE tv has announced a national grassroots initiative aimed at registering more than 1 million women to vote while educating them on key issues. Kelly Ripa, LeAnn Rimes and Kerry Washington have signed on for the campaign.

FIGHTERS GET POLITICAL

Spike TV has launched a voter registration drive in partnership with Ultimate Fighting Championship that includes public service announcements with top UFC stars. CMT also will feature election-related issues content, though its plans are not yet nailed down.   Continued...

 
<p>Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) greets supporters at her New Hampshire primary night rally in Manchester January 8, 2008. Now that the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have launched the presidential race, non-news networks are piling on to document an election season seen as just too entertaining to pass up. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi</p>