Election 2018: Your viewer and listener guide

Hot-button issues drives viewers to the polls – and election coverage

Election night on Tuesday is going to be like Christmas morning for news organizations as viewers are expected to tune in enmasse for the results.

In the past, viewers barely tuned into election night as races weren’t exciting or the outcome was expected (re: the 1984 and 1996 Presidential elections.) Independent stations and cable networks counter-programmed with movies and other special event programs.

But how things have changed. With interest at an all-time high thanks to the polarized political climate, viewers are thirsty for election results as networks and local stations all across the country are expanding their coverage Tuesday, encompassing all of prime-time and late-night time periods – and of course, ratings and HUT levels are expected to soar with a lot of busy newsrooms well into the night.

In other words, local pizza joints such as Giordano’s, Gino’s East, and Lou Malnati’s are going to have a busy Tuesday.

And you can thank Trump and his controversial presidency as these midterm elections are a referendum on his policies as numerous races across the country determines who gets control of the House and Senate for the next two years. In the last few weeks, viewers nationwide have been punished with non-stop outlandish political advertising – not only across traditional media such as television and radio, but also through Facebook, Hulu, and YouTube. In Illinois alone, the Governor’s race has broken spending records for a political race –  one that is not receiving hardly any national attention given Democratic challenger J. B. Pritzker has a commanding lead in the polls (it helps the incumbent comes off as an senile nincompoop.)

Viewers will be watching CNN Tuesday night, one of the many choices available on Election Night.

Local stations across the country have benefited from increased political advertising, breaking records in its own right. According to Kantar Media, the haul is estimated to bring in $2.65 billion for broadcasters this year, up 26 percent from 2014.

The three major broadcast networks are blowing out their  primetime Tuesday night: both CBS and ABC will have election coverage for the entire evening, while NBC decided to drop Tuesday’s episode of The Voice for expanded political coverage. According to numerous TV listings, CBS and ABC plan to air Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel at 10:35 p.m. local time Tuesday, but it is likely the talk shows will be delayed, if they air at all.

NBC isn’t airing Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, but is scheduled to air Late Night with Seth Myers. Again, times are approximate.

Fox is planning to air new episodes of their regular Tuesday night lineup, while The CW is airing repeats of its scheduled Tuesday shows, Arrow and Black Lightning.

Locally, WGN-TV is starting its election coverage at 4 p.m. in its regular news shows, including two hours in primetime (7-9 p.m.) for expanded coverage and is likely to run past 10:30 p.m. WLS-TV is airing election coverage in its regular hour-long newscast over independent WCIU at 7 p.m., who segues to regular syndicated programming at 8 p.m.

According to listings, Fox-owned WFLD has its regular lineup scheduled, but is likely to have expanded election coverage past 10 p.m. And as of this writing, Chicago’s network-owned stations plan to air their regular syndicated programming at 6:30 p.m., surrounded by election coverage and newscasts. Spanish-language networks Univision and Telemundo are also doing election coverage.

In radio, the city’s AM stations – WBBM-AM, WLS-AM, and WGN-AM each plan to have election night coverage. Streaming service CBSN from CBS News plans to begin its election coverage at 4 p.m. And last but not least, the cable news networks – CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News – will have election coverage all day. And your Twitter feed – if you have one – will be populated with election news and commentary all night long – I know mine will.

The best part about election night coverage? No more political ads – until the next election. And the ad blitz may start much sooner than you think – or want.