Koppel's Discovery Debut Fizzles

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Ted Koppel's partnership with Discovery hasn't gotten off to a great start. Sunday night's three-hour Sept. 11 documentary hosted by the former ABC newsman pulled in just 1.03 million total viewers between 8 and 11 p.m., 20% below the network's average for the summer. 

The special, The Price of Security, included interviews with current and former administration members and military experts as well as a live town-hall meeting with 9/11 family members, 9/11 Commission representatives and administration officials.  It was the first of several news specials Koppel and his producing partner Tom Bettag are making for the Discovery Channel, as well as for other Discovery Networks, in a series called Koppel on Discovery.

Koppel's Security faced stiff competition from the broadcast networks - football on NBC and 9/11 shows on both CBS and ABC, which included a special version of Koppel's former program Nightline. Plus Discovery - as a cable network - does not have the reach of a major broadcast network like ABC.

But large ratings aren't everything. Koppel decided to join Discovery after leaving Nightline because cable better allows the type of "harder-edged" reporting he is looking to do, the veteran newsman told television critics at this year's TCA press tour in Pasadena, Calif. Because cable networks like Discovery get revenue from license fees and not just advertisements, the pressure to mold news in such a way that it appeals to younger viewers is not as great, he said.

"In entertainment programming, there is absolutely nothing wrong with networks catering to not just the needs but the desires of their audiences," he said at the time. "But when it comes to news coverage, I think we have an additional responsibility and that is to tell people what they need to know and what they ought to know."

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