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|Leaders & Bleeders: Oprah Up, But OWN Down|
|by David Goetzl, 2 hours ago|
It’s morning in the TV business with the broadcast networks collecting carriage fees; Netflix ready to write them checks; and international audiences apparently desperate for the likes of “Hawaii Five-O.” Oh, the upfront market also seems strong, boosting a revenue stream top executives used to think was primary: advertising.In any case, it’s time for this month’s Leaders & Bleeders.
1) OPRAH WINFREY – What more can be said about her hugely successful talk show? Yet, commentator Kara Miller offered a smart take on a Boston station: “Here she is, an unmarried woman with a mostly married audience. A black woman with a mostly white audience. And a childless woman with an audience that’s largely moms raising kids. And, yet across all those barriers, she was able to so profoundly connect with people that they felt like I’m just like her, I know her … that shows real talent.”
2) SINGING COMPETITIONS – Time to end the question about how many singing derbies America will watch. There is no limit. “American Idol” ended its season with higher finale ratings than last year. A New York Times critic wrote that even after 10 seasons and two new judges, the show is “indestructible.” NBC is counting on fledgling hit “The Voice” to inject energy into its flailing prime time. And Fox is using the coming “X Factor” to drive its sales in the upfront market.
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3) MARK BURNETT – He sells half his company to Hearst Corp. and he may have reached a Spielberg-like role in Hollywood. Not in the creative realm for sure, but with his ability to simply attach his name to a project and prompt intense network interest. Burnett is the exec producer of NBC’s would-be savior “The Voice” and the History channel has signed him for a 10-hour event “The Bible.” Meanwhile, Donald Trump isn’t running for President — shocker! — so Burnett’s “Celebrity Apprentice” will be back and somehow ABC picked up “Shark Tank” for another season.
4) DISH NETWORK – After subscriber rolls dropped late last year, the satellite provider returned with increases in 2011. A potential combination with DirecTV seems possible. Dish has a slew of opportunities to boost ad sales at a local level and with national interactive advertising, where it recently reached a deal with Univision. The surprising acquisition of Blockbuster should prove to be a marketing boon for its existing business – special offers can lure new customers – while it could open a new one in a potential challenge to Redbox.
5) INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE – The Olympics lost money the last time at NBCUniversal. Plus, Dick Ebersol’s resignation at NBCU has cost the IOC an executive who might drive up bidding for rights to the Games. Nonetheless, the IOC stands to load its coffers as Comcast (NBCU), Disney (ESPN) and News Corp. (Fox) show up next week to offer big money for at least the 2014 and 2016 Games. Disney reportedly may throw in a corporate sponsorship to sweeten its bid. How about Comcast offering an Olympics attraction – how far can you throw the javelin? – at its Universal parks?
1) OWN network – The venture seemed so promising with the combination of Oprah’s Harpo — with its ability to launch supreme talent — and the programming wizardry at Discovery, but it hasn’t found much pop. Intense media attention hasn’t helped since negative coverage can deter viewers from even sampling it. Now, Oprah says she’ll have time to devote to OWN, which could help. But a sign executives may be feeling some desperation: OWN is becoming the latest network with a reality series about weddings. “Don’t Tell the Bride” has the groom and best man planning the whole thing in secret. OWN says it “promises tantrums” and a “few unexpected tears of joy.”
2) PBS – Set to launch sponsored messages within some programs and not just at the beginning and end, according to the New York Times. Under the plan, the interruptions would appear about every 15 minutes. Any move that has the Pretentious Broadcasting Service becoming a Promotional Broadcasting Service is a negative. Also, its “Antiques Road Show” could suffer as the brothers in the show join a series on Fox of all places. Hackers also crack into its PBS Web site after a “Frontline” documentary on WikiLeaks apparently angered them.
3) ALCOHOL MARKETERS – With activists looking to crack down on alcohol advertising on grounds it may reach too many people under 21, is it really smart to keep putting out press releases touting new campaigns? Discovery Channel joined Maker’s Mark in announcing all of the brand’s TV dollars would be spent on the network, prompting the Los Angeles Times’ Joe Flint to write: “blatantly getting into bed with a liquor brand seems like bad idea” for a network with a higher calling. Other liquor brands have proudly said their ads will run on cable channels such as ESPN, including 1800 Tequila (with new spots featuring “Sopranos” star Michael Imperioli), and Ketel One and Bacardi rum.
4) MEDIA FASCINATION WITH SARAH PALIN – Ludicrous. All it’s doing is allowing her to garner continued attention that she’ll wisely spin into more money with books, TV gigs, etc. She isn’t running for President – any defeat would hurt her marketing value — so there’s no need for distinguished shows such as “Washington Week” to lower its credibility with speculation about her intentions. Her statement Tuesday to a reporter that she still has a lot of time before deciding whether to enter the race just about says it all: I love being front and center and thanks for your contribution in allowing me to stay there for as long as possible.
5) MARTHA STEWART – Once her eponymous company seemed indomitable. Now, with its media operations reportedly struggling, it is exploring a sale. Stewart Capital chief investment officer Malcolm Polley told Bloomberg: “Martha Stewart’s company is undergoing a slow death that is a result of management failing to make a transition to the next generation. They owe it to their shareholders to try to realize as much as possible from a sale.”