ABC, CBS and NBC decided not to offer live coverage of President Bush's speech about Iraq (search) Monday, although the cable news networks planned to pre-empt their regular programming for the address.

Bush was to deliver the first in a series of speeches about the future of Iraq at the Army War College (search) in Carlisle, Pa. CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC all said they would carry the speech live.

The broadcast networks took an unusual amount of time to tell viewers their plans for Bush's speech — ABC didn't decide until Monday afternoon — because the Bush administration did not formally request the time.

When the White House requests the networks set aside time for a presidential address, it's unusual for them to refuse.

But it's a difficult decision for the networks, forced to weigh the newsworthiness of the event, when it is left up to them. In that case, the three networks often take their cues from one another.

Monday was one of the last nights of the May "sweeps" period, when television ratings are used to set local advertising rates.

NBC had two editions of "Fear Factor" scheduled on Monday. CBS had season finales of its popular Monday-night comedies and ABC was showing the theatrical release "A Beautiful Mind."