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Here Comes the Wedding Hype: How Media Landscape Has Changed Since Diana

Appetite for Royal Nuptials Rabid as Ever, but Now There Are More Ways to Tune in -- and Out

By Published on . 1

A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

You'll forgive the media business for trying to make so much out of Prince William and Kate Middleton's plans for April 29.

For one thing, it's got a lot more places to do so: In the three decades since the last (big) royal nuptials, Charles and Diana's July 1981 wedding, U.S. TV households ballooned by more than half, the VCR grew up and fell to the DVR, the web gave us a second screen and mobile devices birthed a third.

Secondly, the public appetite for royal weddings is as rabid as ever. "These things are so rare and few and far between, and there's going to be so much hype, it's going to be wall-to-wall Will and Kate," said Brad Adgate, senior VP-research at Horizon Media. "I could see people buying DVRs just for this or HD TV sets for the occasion."

(Of course, not everything is different. It turns out that royal weddings of this magnitude must always be accompanied by that era's iteration of "Arthur" in movie theaters.)

For disinterested commoners, the good news is that there are alternatives that didn't exist in 1981. Sure, the Weather Channel is sending Al Roker to London and Food Network is planning a "Royal Icing" weekend on April 23 and 24, but Cartoon Network, Syfy, Discovery and the Cooking Channel have confirmed that they will provide safe zones for anyone fleeing the monarchy. The nuptials probably wouldn't have tempted ESPN much anyway, but the royal couple also scheduled the ceremony for the weekend of the NFL Draft.

Even so, signatures on the media's wedding register will be legion. People magazine, whose 10 best-selling covers ever include five featuring royals, is already running a weekly "Royal Watch" section. Last week it started selling a $7.99 iPad app based on its newsstand book "The Royals: Their Lives, Loves and Secrets." It plans a special issue the week after the wedding with an increased circulation guarantee for advertisers and a separate newsstand-only special May 27.

Prince William and Kate Middleton will be showered with attention.
Prince William and Kate Middleton will be showered with attention. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

On TV, TLC is planning to show 89 hours of royal-related programming from April 24 through April 30. Telemundo will offer daily coverage from London beginning April 25. Bravo's Andy Cohen is hosting "Watch What Happens Live: Royal Wedding Spectacular" on April 28 with guests including Countess LuAnn De Lesseps from "The Real Housewives of New York." CBS's expansive plans include Katie Couric anchoring the evening news from London for three nights starting April 27. Extensive coverage by CNN, which was less than a year old at the time of Prince Charles and Diana's wedding, began Saturday.

MSNBC, which will start live reports from London on April 24, and NBC, which is airing "Inside the Royal Wedding" at 8 p.m. on April 27, plan more than 20 hours of combined coverage on the day of the event. "Most people would say not since Charles and Diana has there been a wedding of prominent people with this much interest around the world," said Mark Lukasiewicz, VP of NBC News Specials and Digital Media. "Diana was this worldwide social phenomenon. People gathered around television sets at every hour to share the experience. There's every indication that's going to happen again for the wedding of her son."

NBC News has also introduced a free "Royal Wedding" iPad app with hundreds of photos, more than 40 new and archival news reports, an interactive royal-family tree and a countdown to the wedding. NBC News entities have secured more than a half dozen deals with advertisers, according to John Kelly, senior VP of NBC News Networks Ad Sales, which is sharing leads with siblings at NBC Universal. "With so much coverage across all of our platforms, some of the clients running with us are running with the other properties," he said.

The web will of course fill with live streams and re-streams on the wedding day, not to mention tweets, Facebook updates and innumerable blog posts. Within hours, the ceremony will be available on iTunes.

But the schedule may actually once again benefit a medium that's changed less than many others over the last 30 years. Radio reaped huge audiences for Charles and Diana's wedding, perhaps 250 million globally, compared to some 750 million people who watched on TV, according to Horizon's Mr. Adgate.

The main action in London on April 29 will again take place early in the morning on the East Coast of the U.S. "Believe it or not, I think this could be another strong day for radio," Mr. Adgate said. "That's their prime time: drive time."

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article inaccurately said Dove Men+Care sponsored the NBC News "Royal Wedding" iPad app. Dove Men+Care iAds have appeared in the app, but as part of a Dove buy across multiple apps, not a specific sponsorship of the app.

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