You have to love the competitiveness and savvy of "60 Minutes."
NBC premiered its heavily-publicized "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly" with a "big get" interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The CBS news magazine about to celebrate its 50th anniversary countered in the 7 p.m. battle with Lesley Stahl's update of a "60 Minutes" story about a Russian dissident who believes he twice survived being poisoned for protesting Putin's policies in his homeland.
So while Putin was denying everything on Kelly's show, from interfering into the 2016 presidential campaign, to knowing former U.S. National Security adviser Michael Flynn, to having a damaging dossier on President Trump, "60 Minutes" was running a story about all the terrible things that happen to Russians who turn against him.
Kelly deserves credit for asking Putin tough questions in the kind of interview that Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer used to do with world leaders. But really, what did she or anyone expect? That Putin was going to say, "yeah, we tried to interfere with your election, colluded with Trump's campaign and I order anyone who doesn't like what I'm doing to die?"
Of course not.
President Trump isn't the only one in the world who thinks the best defense is to deny everything.
Putin smirked and laughed at Kelly's questions and suggestions, brought up a Kennedy assassination conspiracy and may have set a record for the use of the word "nonsense" in his replies to Kelly's pointed questions.
When asked about meetings between the Trump campaign and the Russian ambassador, Putin said "I'm being completely honest with you" before calling it "complete nonsense."
"Today" co-host Savannah Guthrie this morning told Kelly after portions of the interview re-aired that Putin "basically lied" about denying Russians meddled in the U.S. election.
Numbers don't lie.
Kelly's program did win the head-to-head battle in Buffalo against what was largely a "60 Minutes" rerun.
Kelly's program had a 6.1 rating on WGRZ-TV (Channel 2), the local NBC affiliate. "60 Minutes" had a 5.4 rating on WIVB-TV (Channel 4), the local CBS affiliate.
Interestingly, the Putin portion of both programs was the lowest-rated of the hour. Kelly's interview with Putin had a 5.3 rating and rose to a 6.7 for the McFadden story. Stahl's update of the Putin story had a 4.9 rating and rose to a 6.1 for the next story.
I am not too surprised that the Putin interview wasn't must-see TV Sunday. By the time Kelly's program aired, anyone watching any NBC news program in the previous few days and nights may have felt like they had seen it already.
NBC promoted the heck out of the "big get," showing exchanges between Kelly and Putin on various news shows.
After the Putin interview in the first 15 minutes of her program, Kelly was basically reduced to introducing the kind of stories that "60 Minutes" does so well.
Reporter Cynthia McFadden did a story about a whistleblower who said the drug company she used to work for made billions on a drug that was misused by doctors and killed people or led them to become addicted.
Then reporter Harry Smith did a moving piece about some wonderful women, including an American who moved to Africa, who are trying to save elephants from extinction in Kenya.
Then the show concluded with a light piece about young children trying to educate adults how to get along in this angry and scary world.
Art Linkletter would have been proud. But I'm not so sure about Edward R. Murrow.
Off of the premiere, the idea that Kelly's program can damage "60 Minutes" long-term is "complete nonsense."