It is perhaps that aura of selectivity that attracts some of the biggest b-to-b advertisers in corporate America, such as Archer Daniels Midland, Boeing Corp., IBM Corp., Morgan Stanley and Xerox Corp.
John Kelly, senior VP-NBC News network sales, said those companies are regularly on the show's ad schedule because they "want to reach their fellow CFOs, who are watching the program," he said, adding that "Meet the Press" runs during a "time period when we know the C-level is available."
However, Kelly added: "It's not just about the C-suite but reaching influencers and news leaders."
"These are light TV viewers who are hard to reach," Kelly said. "We're the place to be regardless of what happened that week on cable, which is a lot of noise. We tell the story down the middle, the stories are not skewed in any way and there's not a lot of commercial clutter."
Part of the program's appeal is due to moderator and Managing Editor Tim Russert, whose no-nonsense interviewing style leaves his guests little wiggle room.
The program, which originated in 1947, recently celebrated five straight years as the most-watched Sunday morning public affairs show, according to Nielsen Media Research. It attracts about 4 million viewers each week. Ad revenue for the program rose 10% in 2005, according to CMR.
"Meet the Press" viewers have the highest household income of viewers of all Sunday morning public affairs shows on the major networks. Through the first quarter, the median income for viewers ages 25 to 54 was $66,272, compared with $56,519 for ABC's "This Week," $54,789 for CBS' "Face the Nation" and $49,196 for "Fox News Sunday," according to Nielsen Audience Demographic.
Brad Adgate, senior VP-research for Horizon Media, a marketing services agency, said that despite the proliferation of public affairs programming, "Meet the Press" remains one of the top media vehicles for b-to-b advertisers.
"These are quality viewers," Adgate said. "It's not a mass-appeal audience, so b-to-b advertisers can target a good percentage of C-level, upper-income, well-educated individuals."
Knowing how top-level business execs are constantly pressed for time, NBC News in December started to make "Meet the Press" available online, free of charge, starting at 1 p.m. ET Sundays at www.mtp.msnbc.com. The digital offering is sold out for the rest of the year; the current sponsor is Boeing.