President Clinton is set to speak Wednesday at the Democratic National… (Paul J. Richards / AFP/GettyImages )
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Democrats have a big headliner on tap for the second night of their party convention: Bill Clinton is set to take the stage Wednesday night at the Time Warner Cable Arena here.
But the former president is up against some tough counter-programming. Wednesday night is also the season opener for the National Football League, which NBC will air instead of the Democratic National Convention. The face-off between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys could dramatically cut into viewership of the political conclave -- last year’s season kick-off game attracted more than 27 million viewers.
The NFL season opener was originally set for Thursday night, but the league moved it to Wednesday so it would not go head-to-head with President Obama’s speech. The NFL made a similar accommodation in 2008, when it moved the first game’s kickoff to 7 p.m. so it would not conflict with Sen. John McCain’s acceptance speech later that night.
Still, holding the game Wednesday put NBC in a bind: it is contractually obligated to air the NFL games because of its deal with the league, but it also needs to devote equal coverage to the political parties. Last week, the broadcast television networks each gave the Republican National Convention an hour of coverage for three nights. (The GOP gathering was originally scheduled to last four days, but was shortened because of a weather threat.)
So NBC added an hour to its prime-time coverage on Thursday, setting aside 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET for coverage of the final night of the Democratic convention, when both Vice President Joe Biden and Obama are set to speak in an open-air stadium in Charlotte.
Wednesday’s proceedings will be available on NBCPolitics.com, which is live-streaming the entire convention. Clinton’s speech will also air live on MSNBC. And anchor Brian Williams will interview Clinton for a piece that will air Wednesday evening on “NBC Nightly News.”