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CNN Town Hall deserved - but didn't get - Olympic-sized local audience

It wouldn't be surprising if there are a lot of sleepy people at work this morning in Western New York after so many compelling TV events aired Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

If you were on Twitter from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday, you might have thought a good portion of WNY was tuned in to the riveting CNN Town Hall, "Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action."

Moderated by Jake Tapper, the town hall featured so many compelling moments as students, teachers and parents pressed Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on gun control issues that it deserved an Olympic-sized audience.

However, the rating for it in Western New York was about half of the rating for the compelling United States' women's gold medal hockey win over Canada in a shootout that ended around 2:45 a.m. and about one-sixth the audience for NBC's prime time Olympics coverage that ended at 11 p.m.

United States beats Canada for first women’s hockey gold since 1998

There were many highlights on CNN:

A grieving father told Rubio he and President Trump were "pathetically weak" last week in their responses to the Florida shooting that resulted in 17 people being killed. Rubio did get Twitter points for showing up, but it wasn't like he risked much politically. He was re-elected in November and has more than five years left in his term.

A Stoneman Douglas student-turned-activist confronted Rubio in such a tough manner about accepting NRA donations that the teenage questioner looked like he could be the next Mike Wallace.

But the most poignant moment came at the end when students in Stoneman Douglas' drama department performed an original song inspired by the tragedy. If you were watching and didn't shed a tear, you better have checked your pulse to see if you were alive.

The Town Hall was the most compelling two hours of TV during the February sweeps period, though Olympic hockey fans watching the U.S. women's victory a few hours later understandably will dispute that.

The 9 p.m. hour of the town hall in which Rubio stood up to a barrage of criticism averaged a 1.7 local rating, the 10 p.m. hour in which NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch defended her organization had a 1.8 local rating.

The hockey game, which started at 11 p.m., averaged a 3.2 local rating on NBCSN from 11 p.m. through 2:45 a.m. and had a 2.7 rating at the end when the U.S. won the shootout in the early morning.

The rating for the CNN special didn't do much better than the rating on ESPN for North Carolina's 78-74 basketball victory over Syracuse. The basketball game had a 1.5 local rating.

CNN and Tapper, who expertly moderated the debate and cooled things down when he needed to, deserved much better.

Of course, CNN also was competing for viewers with NBC's prime time Olympics coverage on a night that the United States was doing very well.

Channel 2 had a prime time rating of 12.0 for NBC's coverage despite all the American success Wednesday.

The rating was down about 25 percent from the corresponding rating four years ago in Sochi at a time many Americans and WNYers are looking for positive things to embrace in these troubled times.


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