The interviews, assuming they go on as planned, will be available on video-on-demand and Versus.com and will ask “hot-button questions about outdoor issues” to wanna-be nominees, according to the network. Topics could include: access for hunting and fishing, energy, marine protected areas, wilderness areas and conservation-tax easements.
A spokesperson for Versus confirmed to B&C that invitations have been sent to all of the potential candidates from both parties, but as of yet, none has signed on to appear in the Q&As. The network expects that a number of the candidates will agree to participate in the sessions.
Assuming that at least one of the candidates agrees to appear, the Q&A sessions will debut online and on VOD beginning Dec. 13.
“With more than 34 million Americans participating in outdoor activities, sportsmen are undeniably an important constituency to the 2008 presidential candidates," said Gavin Harvey, president of Versus. “Part of our mission to be the pre-eminent destination for outdoor programming is to expand the hunting and fishing community base and give a voice to the issues that are important to them. With the upcoming presidential election and in the ever-changing digital era, this is the perfect platform for our country’s political leaders to connect with this group.”
By focusing on hunting and fishing issues, the Versus forum is likely to attract Republican candidates. However, if the 2004 elections were any indication, Democratic candidates could agree to participate, as well.
Earlier this year, Logo, MTV Networks’ gay and lesbian channel, held its own series of presidential interviews. The network was able to attract six Democratic candidates, including apparent front-runners Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.). No Republican candidates participated in the Logo forum.
By offering a focused and unique forum for candidates to discuss issues relevant to their core viewership, and with the 2008 campaign season starting so early, cable networks are hoping to attract some of the big names from the Republican and Democratic races to their programming. Even if the leading candidates are hesitant to appear, some who are perceived to be behind in their respective races could use the platform available to appeal to the focused viewership the cable networks provide.
Versus, formerly OLN, is a Comcast-owned cable channel that is the cable home of the National Hockey League, the Tour de France and the America’s Cup.