What if the Democratic and Republican National Committees had decided to sell the broadcast rights to their conventions? What would that have been worth? NBC paid $894 million to get a total of 435 million viewer-days out of the sports in Beijing. At $2 per viewer-day, that suggests that the Democrats could have gotten $180 million for their 90 million viewer-days. Now, a convention has fewer commercial opportunities, especially during the candidate’s acceptance speech, and on the networks it’s only on for a couple of prime-time hours each day; so let’s knock that down to $100 million. Still, that’s a nice sum.
It sounds nice in theory, but it fails to realize that all networks carry the conventions because they feel compelled to as an good act of good citizenship. If the parties start trying to sell their conventions, they are going to have to sell exclusive rights, and the other networks will feel free to counter program. The counter programing with definetly drive down viewership for the conventions and decrease the value of winning the exlusive rights to broadcast the conventions. The extra money that the campaign could make from selling the conventions would probably be worth less than the loss of free media that is available by giving the product away.