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After a Bumpy 2016, TV Anchors Play It Safe on Midterm Night

Category: Business,Finance

At NBC News, executives realized there could be interest in granular district races after MSNBC scored huge ratings for a special congressional election in Pennsylvania in April, said Steve Kornacki, one of the network’s featured election night anchors.

“In the history of television and cable news, you couldn’t go live wall to wall with a special election in a congressional district in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and expect to get any kind of an audience,” Mr. Kornacki said in a recent interview.

After the ratings came in the next day, Mr. Kornacki said, there was an understanding that MSNBC viewers were craving that kind of coverage. “My sense is that folks here were like, ‘If there’s interest like this for a district in southwest Pennsylvania, there’ll be interest for a couple dozen of these on election night,’” he said.

On CBS and NBC, midterm coverage was scheduled to continue into the early-morning hours. When Stephen Colbert hosts a live edition of “The Late Show” at 11:35 p.m., a CBS News ticker was set to run along the bottom of the screen, so that viewers can keep up with real-time results.

If major news happens — a verdict on control of the House, say, or the outcome of the Florida governor’s race — Mr. Colbert is prepared to hand off to his network’s news division, whose anchors are standing by to break in.

NBC’s coverage of the election will take the place of Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show,” which shies away from political fare. After that, at 12:37 a.m., the network will offer a live edition of the more politically minded “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

In 2016, as Mr. Trump’s electoral numbers were rising, Megyn Kelly, then of Fox News, told viewers that “the pollsters were dead wrong,” adding: “You tell me if the polling industry is effectively done?”

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