By Debra Baker
OK, I admit it. I was sucked into the whole Casey Anthony trial phenomenon. I followed the news (and the trial itself) 24/7 from the day her daughter Caylee went missing to the day of her sentencing. I’m sure that, for some strange reason, I will watch for reports of her sitings as she tries to re-enter society under a new identity (albeit with the most recognizable tattoo in America).
The lawyers who defended Casey Anthony and the pundits who reviled her were quick to say there were no winners in this ordeal, but I respectfully disagree. Cable operators, broadcasters, wireless carriers, ISPs and social networks saw their usage and program ratings shoot sky high during the multi-week trial, and here are some statistics (gleaned from multiple reports):
>> MSNBC.com claimed more than 1.25 million live video streams of the verdict as it rolled out on July 5, and that number grew to between 8 million and 9 million total streams by day’s end.
>> In a stunning one-day uptick, CNN.com/live reported more than 1 million live streams of the verdict as it was read – reportedly 30 times its 4-week average. Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on judgment day, it quadrupled its average, with more than 12 million page views.
>> In the hours between noon and 4 p.m., 1.2 million videos were streamed on ABCNews.com – three times the previous month’s average. Visits to that site spiked five-fold compared with the average in that time period from June.
>> Streaming of the live verdict trumped even that of the demise of Osama Bin Laden on FOXNews.com.
>> At the time of the verdict last week, there were 325,283 Twitter posts regarding the trial.
All of these channels and all of these sites – and the hundreds more not mentioned here – made a lot of money from what’s being called the trial of the century (not to mention the monies taken in from increased wireless broadband usage). Casey herself is making a buck; it’s coming in dribs and drabs to her jail cell right now, with much larger checks reportedly being sent to her attorney Cheney Mason from individuals who “want to help her start a new life.”
And this doesn’t take into account the cash Casey Anthony undoubtedly will be offered for interviews, and book and movie deals (much of which could go to fight the civil suits against her that began this week). Whoever snags the first interview (Barbara? Oprah? Ellen?) will benefit from ad sales and video revenues, as would any producer of a movie of the week or a tell-all tome.
Or will they? A survey conducted by San Francisco Bay Area-based Q&A Research right after the trial ended showed 82 percent of the 442 participants nationwide said they would not tune in to any television programming in which Casey Anthony was to appear or was consulted if they learned that she had been compensated. In addition, 72 percent indicated they would look “less favorably” on any network brokering such a deal. But wait, there’s more: 61 percent also would look “less favorably” at any advertiser associated with such programming, and many said they would boycott the brand. The findings were comparable for any consideration of a book or movie deal as well.
Casey Anthony, like Paris Hilton and Snooki, is “famous for being famous,” and she is the flavor of the month. Whether the American public will tune in to further “infotainment” regarding her guilt or innocence remains to be seen but, at first blush, it appears that much of any money to be made from this tragedy already has been banked, and the rest is in the hands of the lawyers.
Debra Baker is editor of Communications Technology magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.