“Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd isn’t worried that his show will lose viewers after the presidential election because Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both so interesting — and whatever happens, one of them has to win.
“Every time you have a new and unique election, it brings in new people paying attention. Obama brought in a new group of people and they stayed engaged. Did they stay engaged at the same level as ’08 [election]? No,” Todd told TheWrap. “Trump is bringing in new people. Will they stay engaged at the same level they’re at now? No. But a number of them will.”
Todd’s “Meet the Press” recently had its most-watched July sweeps since 2008, and grew 26 percent in total viewers and 41 percent in the key news demo of adults age 25-54. “MTP” has the most year-over-year growth among Sunday show rivals “Face the Nation and “This Week” and regularly wins the key demo of adults age 25-54.
Although “MTP” is bringing in the most viewers since the 2008-09 season when President Obama was first elected, Todd is looking forward to the post-election cycle that he calls an “opportunity” to keep extra eyeballs on “Meet the Press.”
Todd, who is also NBC’s network’s political director, has broadened the show’s reach beyond Sunday mornings, with a daily version of “MTP” each weekday on at 5 pm. ET on MSNBC, articles across NBC’s digital platforms and a ton of social media outreach, including weekly Facebook Q&As.
“I wouldn’t want to try it without [the extra exposure],” he joked. “I don’t know if it’s one thing, but I do know that my fear is that the most fragile brands are weekly brands.”
Todd compared it to the weekly magazines that have “died” because the modern “fractured media landscape” moves too quickly for the format. He understands that you need a “daily persona” to thrive and was nervous taking over a weekly show without the additional exposure.
“You’ve got to make it more accessible if you want people to watch” he said. “It was sometimes a little too ivory tower as a weekly brand.”
While Todd clearly understands how the media landscape works, he feels Trump is a master at manipulating the news cycle. The “MTP” host pointed out that Trump often says one thing to infuriate his opponent and immediately goes somewhere else to discuss something completely different.
“I just think he knows how to manage an hourly news cycle. He’s figured that out,” Todd said before pointing out that Trump doesn’t always have a strategy, despite the ability to manipulate the news cycle.
“I don’t know if he thinks long-term strategically on messaging,” Todd said, pointing to Trump’s recent comments urging Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails as a prime example.
“Certainly he distracted Democrats a little bit, but I don’t know what the pro-Putin constituency is,” Todd said. “Sometimes there is a method to the chaotic madness, sometimes there isn’t.”
Todd said he’s often called on to deny Trump airtime until he releases his tax returns or apologizes for whatever the scandal of the day happens to be, but it’s not his role.
“That’s fine if you’re an activist,” he said. “That’s not our job.”
Todd points out that both sides want the election to be a referendum on their opponent, as negativity helps motivate potential voters. The obvious place for a full-blown assault on each other’s character are the presidential debates, but the “MTP” host doesn’t think they’re a lock to even take place.
“I’m not convinced that what we think is the schedule will be the schedule, I think Trump is going to be very, very picky. He’s never done a one-on-one debate before,” Todd said. “I’m not convinced all three debates happen. It wouldn’t shock me if we were one and done.”
He explained that if Trump does well in the first debate, he might not want to risk taking the stage for a second time. But if Trump struggles, he could also find a reason to back out.
“I think he believes he has more control over this process and I think that when Trump thinks he can control a process, he usually wants to grab it. The debates are going to be a flash point,” Todd said.
Either scenario would be ideal for political pundits seeking viewers.