Open Mic

January 2010

Jeff Gaspin’s Hollywood Blind Spot and Why the Leno/Conan Plan Was Destined to Fail

Chuck Ross Posted January 27, 2010 at 2:50 PM

Jeff Gaspin is a likable man.

Furthermore, Gaspin comes across as a particularly forthcoming high-ranking TV executive, not as ego-protective as many in similar positions.

As we’ve noted here before , at a recent gathering earlier this month of those of us who cover the TV beat, he gave us a pretty detailed chronological account of the Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien latenight situation.

At the gathering, known as the TCA tour, Gaspin said the reason for coming up with the plan for putting Leno at 11:30 p.m., followed by Conan just after midnight was based on the fact NBC was facing an affiliate revolt, and the desire to keep both Leno and Conan at NBC. That revolt had to do with the ratings for "The Jay Leno Show" at 10 p.m. being so low that it was hurting the ratings of  local affiliates' late newscasts. Thus, Gaspin said, a significant number of TV stations were threatening to pre-empt the Leno program.

Now, with Conan out of the building , Gaspin's added that the other reason he wanted to shake-up latenight is that Conan’s ratings were nowhere near what Leno’s were for most of the years that Leno hosted “The Tonight Show.”

In fact, Gaspin told James Hibberd of The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed blog, in a separate interview the other day, that “I did want to keep both [Leno and O’Brien]. But if you look at the business of it as a practical matter, when I knew I was going to have to make a change at 10 p.m., I looked at the facts. "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien" was (anticipated) to lose many millions of dollars at 11:35 p.m. If you looked at the ratings, affiliates were down 14%, ‘The Tonight Show’ was down 49% -- this is year-to-year for full fourth quarter. As a practical matter, it made sense to try and come up with some other formula for late-night.”

Let’s leave aside the argument some have made that O’Brien needed more time to build a bigger audience, or that NBC ad sales needed more time to perhaps figure out a way to get more money from advertisers who targeted the younger audience that Conan was attracting. Or the argument that Conan's numbers suffered because of the low numbers Leno was getting leading into affiliates' local newscast, and the domino effect that was having.

In another interview, Tuesday, at the annual convention of the National Association of Television Program Executives in Las Vegas, during a session in which Gaspin was questioned by Ben Grossman, the editor-in chief of B&C, Gaspin added even more to his account of the Leno/Conan saga.

Most particularly he said, “I probably underestimated the emotion of everything that went on.” Gaspin said he went to all parties concerned with “a very logical, rational plan. I explained it to the press. I wasn’t trying to hide anything. And I think I underestimated the emotional impact it had on Conan, in particular.”

Earlier in the interview he spoke about how the incident had tarnished NBC’s image, and how that surprised him as well. Given how much more important, on a percentage basis, the cable networks are to NBC Universal’s bottom line, compared to the NBC TV network, he said he’s amazed at how much more ink the NBC network gets from the press compared to the cable properties, and how much more the Hollywood community cares about what the broadcast network is doing versus the cable networks.

Kudos to Gaspin for realizing what surprises him.

The problem for NBC is that these things did indeed surprise him.

Perhaps this will make the point more clear. During the TCA tour a few weeks ago, one of the TV reporters asked Gaspin a very key question. First, the reporter stated that a lot of the TV reporters and critics around the country had said and written that the Leno 10 o’clock show probably would not work, and that the late news at many NBC affiliates would suffer the consequences of lower ratings. So, this reporter wanted to know, if he and his fellow TV reporters had anticipated this result, why hadn’t the brain trust at NBC.

Again, I’m paraphrasing, but Gaspin said that NBC (and the affiliates) had done research that indicated they’d be OK.

You see the pattern here. “Research said.” “Business conditions dictated.” “Logic indicates.” “Rational plan.” "It's practical." “Bottom line.” It’s purely the business without the showmanship. It’s MBA-speak. It’s the quantification of TV, and it’s been the downfall of NBC.

All one has to do is look across the dial at CBS to see how to do it right. What makes Leslie Moonves the quintessential choice to run what is primarily a network TV company is that he’s got programming in his DNA. Yes, of course he needs to be—and is—mindful of the bottom line, but more importantly he gets the emotion of the medium—both the emotional attachment of audience to show and performer, and the emotional makeup of those who create and perform in the shows.

I say “more importantly” because TV really is more an art than a science, and if you understand what is important to and motivates the creative community, then you increase your chances of success exponentially, which, if you’re smart about it, can translate to a better bottom line.#

With Conan Soon to Go Off-Air, and Thus the End to Latenightgate, the Most Fun We've Had Watching TV in A Long Time Will Also End. But Don't Fret--Here's How to Continue Laffing

Chuck Ross Posted January 21, 2010 at 12:46 AM

The new golden age of latenight, which started a few weeks ago when we heard that Leno’s primetime show was going to be cancelled and that he was going back to a latenight slot, will likely end this week, and that’s a big problem for us viewers.

Ever since all hell broke loose a few weeks ago, the wisecracking done by Leno, Conan, Kimmel, Letterman and Ferguson has kept us in stitches. Even the Chinese have gotten involved.
It’s been latenight comic gold, and it’s us viewers that have struck it rich.
But tomorrow, Friday, Jan 22, will likely be Conan’s last time hosting “The Tonight Show,” and Leno won’t replace him for awhile. And with Conan likely paid-off and off-the-air until at least the fall, the jokes about this latest latenight fiasco will subside.
HOWEVER! Fear not, oh fellow couch potato breath. We know what ails you and have a cure that will hit your funny bone in just the right place.
You need to buy or rent two very funny DVD collections:
“The Larry Sanders Show,” with Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor and Rip Torn, was a series that ran on HBO. It was the behind-the-scenes story of a latenight talk show that competed with Leno and Letterman. Though it first ran back in the 1990s, the episodes hold up fine and the series is funny as all get out.
Here’s how you’ll know if it’s your cup of tea. This is a clip we found on YouTube of the first 8 minutes of a “Larry Sanders” episode that featured Sarah Silverman as the guest star. Shandling plays forever insecure talk-show host Larry Sanders. Rip Torn plays the producer of the show. Silverman, as you’ll find out right away, is a writer looking to get hired by the Sanders show: Oh, one more thing--there are four-letter words used in the show, and it has adult content.

Reflections on the Golden Globes

Hillary Atkin Posted January 18, 2010 at 2:37 PM

Move over “30 Rock.” Here comes “Glee.” Fox’s freshman comedy series about a high school glee club took critics and viewers by storm this season, and now it can add a Golden Globe award to its songbook. Two of its leads, Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison also scored nominations.

Tina Fey herself predicted that her reign as best comedy actress in "Rock" may be coming to an end — and she was right. That spot, in somewhat of an upset, went to Toni Collette for “United States of Tara.” But Fey's co-star Alec Baldwin is still getting the love with the trophy for best actor in a comedy or musical series.

Say what you will about the Globes, but the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. is often the first to spotlight new or underappreciated television shows and stars, paving the way for them to be recognized with other industry awards.

Take Juliana Margulies in "The Good Wife," who walked away with the Globe for top drama series actress. If you're like me and millions of others, you've heard about the show but never seen it. Now it's on the radar.

“Mad Men’s” seduction remains as strong as ever, much to creator Matthew Weiner's professed surprise — but no one else’s — as the foreign press awarded the noir-ish program its third consecutive statuette for top drama series on television.

But it was "Dexter's" lead and supporting actors that held the biggest sway over voters, with Michael C. Hall and John Lithgow both taking the top prizes. The black cap-clad Hall's acceptance speech was even more poignant with the unmentioned fact that he has been (successfully) battling cancer. Lithgow, previously best known on television for his multiple Emmy-winning role on "3rd Rock From the Sun,” is brand new to the "Dexter" cast, joining in September 2009 as a serial killer, but obviously no stranger to acting kudos.

HBO continued its award-winning ways by nabbing the remainder of the major television awards. The acclaimed "Grey Gardens" brought it home as best miniseries or motion picture made for television and Drew Barrymore took the top acting prize for her breakout dramatic role as Little Edie Bouvier Beale.

There was no six degrees of separation for Kevin Bacon at the ceremony. His role as Lt. Col. Michael Strobl in “Taking Chance” completely connected with Globes voters, although the film did not have nearly the degree of exposure as "Gardens." Its tough subject matter — the saga as the Lt. Col. personally takes home the body of a private killed in the Iraq war — is a must-see.

The multiple wives on "Big Love" will now have something else to bicker about. Only one of them, Chloe Sevigny, will be able to display a Golden Globe on her mantle.

Here's Proof of Jay's Hypocrisy

Aaron Barnhart Posted January 18, 2010 at 6:01 AM

It's been amusing to watch apologists for NBC and Jay Leno explain away Conan O'Brien's brilliant and shockingly candid "People of Earth" letter.

But lest anyone think that the Dick Ebersols of the world are anything less than lying, despicable jerks for stabbing Conan in the chest, let's go to the record.

[Directly below you'll see] the video of Jay Leno in 2004, explaining to his "Tonight Show" audience why he wanted to hand the reins over to Conan in 2009.

Listen carefully as Jay tells his (somewhat) disappointed fans, "I don't want to see Conan go anywhere else ... There's only one person who could do this into his 60s and that's Johnny Carson ..."

B.S. B.S. B.S. B.S. B.S. B.S.


Sorry, that was my detector going off.

Now that Leno has betrayed all of that, can we be done with the "Jay is a nice guy" meme once and forevermore? And can we please stop thinking of Jeff Zucker and his pals as engaging in anything but the most desperate form of CYA — the kind that happens just before you get fired, or suddenly lose $200 million of the company's money, or both? 

The only part of that whole talk I agreed with was when Leno said, "Conan is a gentleman, funny ..."

Yep, he's both and you're neither.

Kudos to the poster who saved the clip from the Tonight Show.

Jay's 2004 Announcement - watch more funny videos

Behind the Leno Move: Why NBC is Suddenly So Interested In the Brotherly Love of Its Affiliates

Chuck Ross Posted January 11, 2010 at 3:27 AM

Tags: affiliates, Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, Jeff Gaspin, Jimmy Fallon, late night, NBCU, reasons for Leno cancelation

Aaron Barnhart, the TV Critic at the Kansas City Star and our longtime colleague, raised the issue immediately in Sunday’s Q&A between TV critics and reporters and Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment: Since the reason NBC was giving for cancelling Leno’s primetime show was complaints from its affiliates, how much of the decision to listen to these affiliates was because of the pending deal for Comcast to take a majority share of NBCU, and NBCU’s desire to keep all of the players it's involved with enthusiastic about the deal?

Here’s what Gaspin said in response: “Absolutely zero. They [Comcast] have nothing to do with business decisions we make, and they won’t until there is regulatory approval. Right now all I’m doing is my job. All we’re doing is our jobs and not thinking what might be a year from now.”

When asked later by TVWeek if he wasn’t personally thinking about the Comcast deal at all when making this decision, Gaspin reiterated, “Honestly, not one bit. I’m making the decision that is best for NBC. My current bosses and my future bosses will judge me based on those decisions. I only know how to make decisions based on my own experience and the situation I have to work with.”

Interesting. Long ago I was taught that in most things business, follow the money. And I’m sure that Gaspin, an MBA who first joined NBC in its finance department, would also likely say that’s a smart way to look at most business decisions.

So let’s delve a little further into his explanation as to why NBC has canceled Jay Leno’s primetime show as of next month, and proposes that instead Leno do a half-hour show at 11:35 pm, followed by Conan O’Brien and an hour of “The Tonight Show,” which would in turn be followed by an hour of Jimmy Fallon.

The sole reason for NBC deciding to blow up its schedule almost immediately and rush other programming into 10 pm is because it was facing, basically, an affiliate revolt, Gaspin said.

Witness this exchange between a TV reporter and Gaspin on Sunday:

TV Reporter: “Jeff, couldn’t you have struck a deal with the affiliates? Sorta said guys, we don’t have anything else in the pipeline, let’s see how this plays out for the rest of the [TV] year and we’ve got all these dramas in development. Guys, Jay’s probably not going to be on at 10 in the fall, so let’s just show a little more patience, we’ll work with you guys, but let’s not blow it all up and go crazy.”

Gaspin: “I can promise you that all the options that I thought of we discussed and in the end I made this decision.”

TV Reporter: “What were some of your other options?”
Gaspin: “You can guess what some of them were. You’ve written about a lot of them.”

Similarly, there was this exchange:

Another TV Reporter: “You hinted that [Leno’s show] was acceptable for the network, you were making money, and it was really the affiliate issue. But was it really? Could have you lived through the rest of the season with a 1.5 rating at 10 o’clock had [some of the affiliates ] not had 30% dropoff for the local news?”

Gaspin: “Yes. I would have preferred it. As opposed to crashing a schedule? I have shows to launch out of the Olympics. I would have much preferred to concentrate on launching shows, and trying to create new hit shows than now trying to explain to people why we have a new schedule. So I would have much preferred to have waited to September. I would have preferred to have seen the summer ratings.”

The Reporter: “But was it a given that you were going to drop this experiment by August anyway?”

Gaspin: “I had to signal to affiliates that we were willing to make a change. You never know what would have happened between signaling them and actually [having] had to make the decision. Maybe something would have happened that would have allowed me to go back to them. But I’d have to make too many assumptions there. I just don’t think it’s useful.”

Then there were the following few Qs&As:

A Reporter’s Question: “Did you get a sense of how many affiliates were going to start preempting [the Leno show if it continued in primetime]?”

Gaspin: “There was about a third. There was about a third that were really hurt by [their local news ratings after Leno’s show] and were incredibly concerned.”

Question: “Contractually would they be able to preempt the show?”

Gaspin: “That’s a question more for the lawyers than for me. It becomes more of a public relations issue than a contractual issue. Do you want to have your affiliates, your partners, constantly saying ‘This is killing me’? It just was going to damage Jay, and it was going to damage NBC. So regardless of what legally the position was, this was going to continue to be a PR nightmare.”

A few moments later there was this question: “Could you have waited until [affiliates] started [preempting]?”

Gaspin: “Before they preempted I believe they would have been talking publicly, so that’s what I was trying to avoid, not so much the preemptions.”

OK, let’s review: Gaspin says the only reason he’s yanked the Leno show in primetime is because about a third of his affiliates may have started preempting the show. And that it wasn’t the actual preemptions that would have bothered him, but the bad publicity that would accompany just the threat of preemptions. Furthermore, this publicity would be a public relations nightmare and would damage NBC, Gaspin says.

Hmm. I’m neither an MBA nor a lawyer—though I haven’t spent a lifetime watching “The Defenders” and “Perry Mason” and “LA Law” and “Boson Legal” and “Judge Judy” and Ben Matlock for nothing.

Come on. NBC, the once proud peacock, has gotten so much bad publicity in the last few years as the architect of its own demise that it’s the Tiger Woods of media.

Still, it appears that this potential affiliate revolt over the Leno debacle was making NBC executives so nervous that their fingernails were starting to sweat, as Dan Rather used to say. But not about more bad publicity per se.

Yes, I think Gaspin has been very forthright in telling us the chronology of what’s gone on with the Leno situation, and his concerns as a good corporate citizen of NBCU.

But isn’t he kidding himself, ladies and gentlemen of the jury—and us as well—if he doesn’t think that an honest connecting of the dots inevitably and irrefutably leads to the conclusion that the reason NBC all of a sudden fears another “PR nightmare” right now is because they are indeed worried about the political fallout it could have on the Comcast deal.

Gaspin says he’s just doing his job and does not hear footsteps from Philadelphia. But clearly one of the jobs of a top executive at NBCU today is to ensure that the Comcast deal gets done, since management of NBCU and parent General Electric have said they believe that the consummation of the deal is in the best interests of the company.

As the saying goes, in life, timing is everything. And this is one of the few times in recent years that timing has given the advantage to the affiliates.

And for all of us who believe that the Leno primetime move was bad for TV, we’ll grab a break wherever we can get one. #

A Toast to the 20th Anniversary of 'The Simpsons'

Hillary Atkin Posted January 8, 2010 at 2:27 PM

The record books are re-arranging the rankings, moving “Gunsmoke” down a notch and elevating “The Simpsons.”

Yes, Sunday night at 8 p.m. marks a special moment in television history: “The Simpsons” will officially celebrate its 20th anniversary, becoming the longest-running scripted primetime show ever.

Many people may not recall that the animated yellow family made its debut as interstitials on Fox's "The Tracey Ullman Show” in 1989. The series itself premiered on the fledgling Fox network in January 1990, thanks to Barry Diller’s foresight and green light.

Not only did the show become a runaway hit, but creator Matt Groening's crudely drawn Simpson family -- dad Homer, mom Marge, kids Bart and Lisa and baby Maggie -- almost instantly became pop culture icons.

In addition to the anniversary episode, viewers will get an extra treat Sunday night at 8:30 p.m.: an original hour-long documentary directed by Morgan Spurlock called "The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special in 3-D on Ice.”

It's not in 3-D and it's not on ice, but Spurlock (of “Super Size Me” fame) and his crew traveled around the world to shoot it, exploring the international love affair with all things Simpson. “There’s a whole brand new audience,” the director told me. “It’s become multigenerational. We wouldn’t have had other animated shows on primetime if not for ‘The Simpsons.’ They’ve really changed the game.”

(You can check out a preview clip and hear the amusing “Homer Simpson Mr. Plow Theme Song” created by Moby here.)

Alongside the series, “The Simpsons” is an incredibly profitable business enterprise all to itself, raking in millions of dollars from licensing and merchandising.

If you didn’t ever have a Bart T-shirt or know someone who did, you must have been under a rock these past two decades.

And don’t forget the movie, the ride, the DVDs, the Stephen Hawking toy, the games, the U.S. postage stamps—and Marge’s Playboy cover last November to promote the cleverly-named episode "The Devil Wears Nada."

D’oh. Congratulations, Simpsons enterprise, and may you have many more seasons of bringing the funny.

Defining a Decade: How the Aughties Changed TV

Hillary Atkin Posted January 8, 2010 at 10:39 AM

Think back to the year 2000. Ah, yes. Y2K, those innocent days before 9/11, when reality television was just making major inroads with the huge popularity of “Survivor,” before Jack Bauer became a ticking terrorist ass-kicker, before “American Idol” changed the pop culture landscape and when Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather reigned supreme over their respective network newscasts.

The dot-com 1.0 party was in its last euphoric throes on its way to crashing and burning, yet YouTube and Hulu were years away from changing the way people consume video. TiVo and DVRs were around, but hadn’t penetrated the marketplace. Most cell phones couldn’t access the Internet—they were text-capable but not many in the US actually texted anyone — and TV stations didn’t have their own Web sites streaming live video of breaking news, much less transmitting to then-nonexistent iPhones, Blackberries or other "smart" mobile devices.

It was a time when Tony Soprano was solidifying his power base in New Jersey as the corpses stacked up and Carrie Bradshaw and her fashionable entourage were becoming icons in living the fabulous single life in New York City.

The Aughties saw the end of beloved, groundbreaking shows like “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City,” but spawned new ideas and entertainment that shaped our lives and drove the conversation. These are some of the decade’s game-changers across the cable and broadcast spectrum:

Fox’s “24” and Real-World Terrorism: Against the backdrop of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cathartic experience of watching the time-pressured Jack Bauer brutally wring whatever he wanted from evildoers intent on killing thousands of innocents—along with the Abu Ghraib torture photos scandal—kick-started a national conversation about how enemy combatants are treated. The fictional character became representational on both sides of the fence — as hero or villain — and the controversy over the show’s depiction of Islamic terrorists led to Kiefer Sutherland doing a public service campaign to mitigate some of the accusations of racial profiling. In light of recent events, and with the upcoming season set in New York, “24” will remain a lens through which many people view the war on terror.

The Daily Show’s Huge Impact: just when you thought Jon Stewart couldn't get any hotter, or overexposed —  remember all those mid-decade magazine cover stories? — he and his “Daily Show” team of fake reporters proved they hadn't peaked with their 2004 and 2008 “Indecision” election coverage. The show’s guest slot became and remains a coveted go-to spot for politicians, world leaders and authors — with an occasional movie star thrown in for good measure. "TDS’s" spawn went on to great good fortune, most notably Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, whose Stephen and Steven segments are still fondly remembered.

The Juggernaut that is 'American Idol': Paula, we miss you already. Ten years ago, who could have possibly predicted the massive phenomenon that became “Idol?” (Or Ryan Seacrest becoming a near industry unto himself?) Fan or no — and those who weren't were definitely in the minority – “AI” brought major talent to the world stage. Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert, Carrie Underwood and Jordin Sparks can all tip their hats to “Idol,” as do the accountants at Fox Broadcasting Co. With Ellen DeGeneres taking the Paula judging spot, Simon Cowell nearly ready to take a final bow and ratings somewhat on the decline, the peak glory days may be in the past, but the program’s power and progeny (“Dancing With the Stars,” “America’s Got Talent,” etc.) live on.

New Faces of News: The evening news anchor desks had historically been held by older white men, but by the end of the decade, two of the three were occupied by women who made their names on the softer side of news, in the morning. Did the format change? Not so much. When you’ve only got 22 minutes of news, there’s not much time or space for major formula revisions. And the audience — whose size has deteriorated even as the median age increased — really wasn’t up for ch-ch-changes. Still, network news is far from dead — as some pundits have pronounced it for years. And 24-hour cable news, which drives a large swath of political debate from both sides and down the middle in filling its bottomless news hole, isn’t expected to retrench. Even these days, it’s still cost-effective programming.

Food as Entertainment: The Aughties brought foodies another venue outside of the kitchen, the bookstore or the restaurant to indulge their passion and learn some new cooking tricks. Whether your favorite flavor was “Top Chef,” “Iron Chef” or “Kitchen Nightmares,” or your TV was permanently tuned to the Food Network, television catered to the concept of cooking as sport. A far cry from the days when “The French Chef With Julia Child" on PBS was the only game in town. Hungry for more? No shortage of food shows is on the horizon.

Reality as Reality TV: These days, having your own reality show is a career move for untold thousands, who will go to any lengths to attain it. (Example A: the heinous Heene media hos.) The pay might be low, but the perks can be great — extending far beyond the old-school 15 minutes of fame. Whether it’s being a contestant on “The Bachelor,” sewing your way to stardom on “Project Runway,” being a “Real Housewife” (Salahis, anyone?) or becoming a “Biggest Loser,” the tabloid shelf life can be lucrative. Reality television decimated the ranks of scripted television shows and their writers, producers and actors — and sadly, there’s no going back.

Why You Should Attend This Month's CES and NATPE Conventions

Chuck Ross Posted January 5, 2010 at 6:44 AM

Tags: CES, commence, connections, Content, NATPE, Up Next

With the New Year’s holiday now over, it’s time to get back to business for those of us who work in the TV industry.

And that means right away. There are two major conventions in January, both in Las Vegas: CES, the Consumer Electronic Show that begins later this week, and NATPE, the annual gathering of the National Association of Television Program Executives, that takes place the last week of the month.

CES used to be just a showcase for the latest TV sets and other electronic products and gadgets coming out. NATPE used to be a place that local TV station executives went to fill out their schedules with non-network programming.

Both conventions have evolved and offer much more; and much more specifically for those in the TV business.

So to get us up to speed with what each convention offers, we’re presenting two guest blogs by our longtime friends Gary Arlen and Rick Feldman. We thank both of them for enlightening us as each explains why we should attend their respective conventions.

Arlen is President of Arlen Communications Inc., a research and business development firm specializing in media and communications convergence. He’ll tell us about UP NEXT, the new TV-related event at CES.

Feldman is the President and CEO of NATPE, and he’ll tell us what’s new and exciting about NATPE this year.

Since CES starts later this week, first up is Arlen’s piece:

UP NEXT, a new event at CES in Las Vegas, puts two worlds of television under the same roof. CES (once known as the Consumer Electronics Show) is famed for its biggest-in-the-world exhibits of TV sets and home video gear. Now it is also a venue for television creative and distribution expertise.

UP NEXT, on Jan 7 and Jan 8, is a first-of-its-kind event during CES evaluating the factors that affect traditional TV and new media, which are increasingly intertwined and competing for consumers’ attention.

It specifically focuses on how and where viewers get their entertainment and information, and how much audiences and advertisers are willing to pay for it.

For program creators, packagers and distributors, it’s a place to see what’s coming up next. The event pinpoints the creative and business developments that are shaping the profitable coexistence of traditional and new media.

The UP NEXT agenda starts with hard-to-find financial data about media economics from Stephen Chao, the former Fox TV executive. It continues the next morning with the first details from Ben Silverman, a former NBC TV vice chairman, about his new venture called “Electus,” in collaboration with Barry Diller’s InterActive Corporation.

One question you might have is why we're doing this event at all. Here's how the idea for UP NEXT evolved: For the past five years, I’ve noticed the growing presence of video producers and distributors coming to CES for glimpses into the shifting video landscape and how it affects the way they operate. So when, in response to industry demand, CES’s organizers began exploring a TV programming-oriented event, we were ready to create a timely and valuable agenda with top-notch speakers and panelists.

The result is UP NEXT, a free event designed for the media content community to plunge into current developments and get a deep peek into what’s coming up next. As my co-producer Arthur Greenwald intones, “What sets UP NEXT apart is our emphasis on real world numbers, avoiding glib pessimism or ridiculously simple-minded optimism. Our ambitious goal: to help participants identify lucrative business models faster than they would through trial and error.”

We’ve built UP NEXT using experts with solid research, economic, technical and creative experience. The subtitle “Content, Creativity, Cash” bluntly describes our focus, but our mantra has become “avoid exaggerated pessimism about traditional and reject irrational exuberance about new media.”

As a result, three dozen creative talents and business wizards, thinkers and doers from Hollywood, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Silicon Valley and beyond, will bring unprecedented perspective to CES. UP NEXT deals with real-world concerns about how to monetize content in today’s transitional environment. We’re looking at specific issues such as video search: How will viewers find programs in the mega-channel, on-demand landscape, and what will they pay for the shows they want to see?

Discussions at UP NEXT will range from the vital labor concerns of Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard to creative opportunities from actor-producers Illeana Douglas and Bradley Whitford and director-producer Thomas Schlamme. Networks’ top digital executives, including Vivi Zigler from NBCU, Albert Cheng from Disney/ABC and Lois Choi Owens from Scripps Networks, will offer their perspectives on the interplay between established networks and digital distributors.

In addition to the celebrity hyphenates and financial gurus, there are production and distribution veterans. The UP NEXT speaker line-up features research and advertising geniuses who perceive the shifting tastes of media consumers. CBS’s legendary ratings whiz David Poltrack is bringing new viewer research findings, gathered during the current holiday season, and will match numbers with Scott Brown from Nielsen, David Bloxham from the Media Design Center at Ball State University and Artie Bulgrin of ESPN.

The presidents of the 4As (the group formerly known as the American Association of Advertising Agencies), CTAM (the cable TV marketing society) and Sony Pictures Technology will add perspectives about the marketing and technology developments.

UP NEXT’s free sessions will take place in room N250 of the Las Vegas Convention center starting at 1 pm on January 7 and continuing at 8:30 am on January 8. Details are available here. There’s a link to the CES registration site.#

Now here’s the piece about NATPE:

Hey, Rick Feldman here—President and CEO, of NATPE—with a few words previewing the attractions being put into place at our annual Market and Conference in Las Vegas.

Our overall theme remains CONTENT—COMMERCE—CONNECTIONS.

Content, because our business ultimately succeeds or fails via the products we deliver to our viewers. Commerce, because NATPE is still a place where distribution and co-production deals are initiated, refined and often closed. Connections because NATPE reigns as THE premiere TV business facilitator, bringing content creators, rights holders and ad agencies together to identify business opportunities in the global, multiplatform video industry.

Who can you connect with at NATPE 10? How about David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications, Elisabeth Murdoch, chairman & CEO of Shine Group,
Esther Lee, senior vice president at AT&T, Michael Eisner, CEO of the Tornante Company and Dana Walden, chairman, 20th Century Fox Television.

We’ll illuminate the changing role of the showrunner and creative opportunities inherent in multiplatform video delivery from Neal Baer M.D., Wolf Films; Philip Gurin, The Gurin Company; Hugh Laurie, David Shore and Katie Jacobs from “House”; Bravo’s Andy Cohen, who will feature Donald Trump, Jillian Michaels and Curtis Stone as his guests; Steve Levitan and the cast of the hit comedy “Modern Family”; and Bill Lawrence, creator and executive producer of “Scrubs” and “Cougar Town.”

Insightful innovators in the digital world from companies including NBC Universal International; Google; LucasFilm Ltd.; Twitter; Microsoft Xbox; and YouTube will host exciting demonstrations and discussions about the collaboration of technology and production.

More than 250 industry innovators and drivers will offer lucrative ways to utilize all content delivery. NATPE is showcasing senior executives from CAA (Creative Artists Agency); Lionsgate; Levity Entertainment; Fox Television Studios; Telemundo Network Group; Hearst Television; Endemol USA; NBC Universal; Bravo; CABLEready Corporation; Walt Disney Studios; Disney Channel; USA Networks; CBS Entertainment; MarVista Entertainment; and TNT (Turner Network Television).

From content creation to distribution and consumption, video business models are being disrupted and transformed. But the consumer’s appetite for quality content has never been stronger, and smart companies are taking advantage of an opportunity to define what’s next. Leading the discussion will be Michael Kassan of MediaLink, along with Drew Buckley, Electus; Jordan Levin, Generate; and Michael Kelley, PricewaterhouseCoopers, among others.

NATPE has also gathered a who’s who from Madison Ave., including senior executives from Crispin Porter + Bogusky; the Third Act, a unit of Digitas; GroupM Interaction Worldwide; Ogilvy Entertainment; and Canoe Ventures.

I don’t think I’m boasting when I say there is no where else where you can have access to a line-up of such depth and pedigree. All together we have gathered more than 250 industry leaders and influencers to offer leading edge perspectives on the current and future state of the media content market.

NATPE ‘10 continues its connection-friendly environment, from the exhibition floor and hospitality suites to the conference discussions and social events. This January, we're leveraging our relationships to offer you a one-of-a-kind, customized networking service.

Participants eligible for our new pilot business concierge program, NATPE Navigator, receive a tailored agenda specific to their business goals; personally arranged, structured introductions and admission to premium sessions which will facilitate relationships and help get deals done.

It is our hope that these new opportunities, as well as the changes to the familiar layout of past NATPE Market & Conferences, will make the 2010 event easily managed and highly productive for you. I encourage you to delve into the discussions, engage with as many participants as possible and thoroughly explore all that the 2010 NATPE Market & Conference has to offer. To entice you further, I would like to extend a special registration rate of $650 to you. Just use promo code NATPETVW when registering here.

Have a great market and I look forward to seeing all of you at the Fountainbleu in Miami Beach next January.#