TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.


Marianne Paskowski

CNBC ‘Fast Money’ Host Ratigan Bolts?

March 30, 2009 11:38 AM

God, I felt like I got hit with a bolt of lightning when I read in many published reports today that Dylan Ratigan, who was the host of CNBC’s highly acclaimed “Fast Money,” reportedly left the network last Friday.

Dylan Ratigan

His contract expires tomorrow, but from all accounts he has his cap set on a bigger spot, namely a role at ABC News. Ratigan, who worked for CNBC for five years, also co-hosted “Closing Bell” with Maria Bartiromo, a veteran at the financial news network.

With the financial crisis growing, viewers need the passion and common sense that Ratigan delivers as he tries to make sense of this global economic mess for the layman.

Oddly enough, so far, CNBC has made absolutely no mention of his departure, even though he didn’t show up for duty Friday, and had been out earlier the week before with the flu.

So what’s the next platform for Ratigan? Some TV critics see him having his own late evening or early morning broadcast network show.

But could this just be a contract negotiation ploy on the part of CNBC?

Whatever, I miss the P.T. Barnum of TV financial news. May he return somewhere and soon.

CNN’s Gupta Withdraws from Surgeon General Search

March 5, 2009 9:26 PM

Here’s a headline that should make you think hard about how all the body parts are not working in the Beltway.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

The Associated Press reported Thursday night that Dr. Sanjay Gupta, well known as the host of CNN’s “House Call” and President Barack Obama’s first pick for the post of surgeon general took himself out of the selection process. What a ridiculous choice that was, President Obama, I have to say.

Gupta cited personal reasons, like wanting to spend more time with his family. Personally, I think the 39-year-old neurosurgeon, who also practices surgery at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital, saw the political clouds of opposition forming.

He apparently didn’t have skeletons in the closet like tax issues, but was he really appropriate, given his age, and given that he is a TV celebrity with an active practice? Was he ready to become the talking head in Obama’s important and radical healthcare reform plan? I doubt it.

The AP said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., circulated a letter saying that Gupta was inexperienced and urging Obama not to name him.

I’m glad Conyers did that. And personally I wish Obama would just slow down. Fix the economy, create jobs, untangle the mortgage/bank problems and then give healthcare more time to rationalize into a real policy.

Obama coulda, shoulda, but apparently hasn’t learned much yet from Hillary Clinton about her first botched efforts to reform health care.

Cablevision to Charge for Newsday Online

February 27, 2009 8:10 AM

Cablevision Systems Corp. COO Tom Rutledge told analysts yesterday that the company took a sizable hit last quarter, mostly because of its acquisition of Long Island, N.Y.-based Newsday.

To stem the blood flow from Newsday, Rutledge told analysts that it would begin charging the newspaper’s subscribers for access to its online edition.

Newsday Website

And that’s a big move down a slippery slope, considering that most of the country’s newspapers, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal, offer readers their online content for free.

So does Cablevision, a multiple system cable operator, know something about the newspaper industry that it just became immersed in last year that old-time, traditional publishers don’t know?

You have to wonder, given that EW Scripps, publisher of the 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News, is printing its last edition of the battered newspaper today, having failed to find a buyer.

I doubt Cablevision will succeed with its move to charge for Newsday’s online content, given that readers in Long Island have many other newspaper options.

Anyone think Cablevision will succeed with this rather stunning endeavor?

Episode Two: ‘Obamavision TV’

February 25, 2009 9:19 AM

President Barack Obama took to the nation’s airwaves last night, addressing a joint session of the House and Senate.

Barack Obama Addresses Congress

The morning after, critics are praising his speech, noting how telegenic he is, but in the end concluding that the president didn’t provide any real detail on how he was going to kick-start the economy. Instead, he provided a wide panorama with few in-depth plans.

Just yesterday the market soared when Fed head Ben Bernanke told a finance oversight committee that the administration has no intention of nationalizing the banks. The market closed up 236 points because investors heard what they wanted to hear,.

Today, after Obama’a Monday evening speech, the market is currently in the red, largely because Obama didn’t say yay or nay about nationalizing the banks.

And how could he, with the results not yet known as the nation’s banks begin to undergo the so-called new stress tests?

Obama was smart not to make promises he could not keep, even though he knew Wall Street wouldn’t like not getting clarity.

On a scale of 1 through 5, I’d rate Obamavision Episode Two a 4. Although his line “The nation that created the auto industry cannot walk away from it” was memorable, in was factually wrong.

Actually kudos there go to Germany’s Mercedes-Benz. Who knew? Thank you, CNN.

TV’s New Genre: Recession Sitcoms

February 20, 2009 10:26 AM

As if primetime television wasn’t already bad enough, there are gobs of recession-related pilots awaiting the green light for this fall, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Well-paid TV executives, I guess, are trying to demonstrate their sensitivity to the victims of the recession and are shying away from “office-based shows.” They figure viewers don’t want to be reminded about their workplace, or lack of one, says the Reporter.

One dreadful-sounding pilot CBS is looking at is “Waiting to Die,” a sitcom about two guys who are happy with their lives even though they have nothing going for them. I’ll bet the house against the sitcom keeping that moniker if it gets out of the starting gate.

Another sitcom in development for Fox is “Two-Dollar Beer,” about a blue-collar couple struggling in Detroit who feel their lives have become irrelevant. Gee, why not just sit down with a dark tome from Kafka or Sartre about existentialism?

Sorry, neither show sounds funny or delivers on the promise of sitcom: pure escapism. I predict failure if either of these downers gets off the drawing board.

L’Oreal Tells Oscars: ‘You’re Not Worth It’

February 17, 2009 11:46 AM

L’Oreal, one of the Academy Awards’ biggest sponsors last year with its catchy slogan “Because You’re Worth It,” apparently has had a change of heart and will not sponsor the Oscars this Sunday on ABC.


Last year the cosmetics giant bought eight spots in the Academy Awards. This year it took a pass altogether, even though ABC reportedly has lowered the cost of a 30-second spot during the awards show from $1.8 million to roughly $1.4 million.

Clearly the dismal economy entered into L’Oreal’s decision. But maybe the advertiser was fearful of consumer backlash, according to today’s New York Post.

If that’s the case, L’Oreal with its aspirational brands of face and hair care products sold primarily in drug stores, erred in judgment by skipping this opportunity to appeal to cost-conscious viewers.

A large part of the fun of watching the Oscars is the voyeuristic aspect, seeing how the stars look and what they are wearing during television’s second-largest broadcast.

L’Oreal should have tweaked its message to say something like, “Look Like a Million for Far Less.”

That kind of message would resonate with women watching at home who are already pinching pennies, as they flee Saks’ cosmetics counters to buy beauty products at CVS.

Clearly L’Oreal is another so-called paradox of saving: By not advertising, it is not encouraging customers to modestly spend their way out of this deep and prolonged recession.

Why CBS’ Moonves Should Cut Dividend

February 12, 2009 12:04 PM

Next week CBS CEO Leslie Moonves will report earnings, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a hefty dividend cut for shareholders.

Leslie Moonves

And that’s a good thing, considering the company’s cash flow is dropping due to the continuing downslide in ad sales.

Today CBS was trading at $5.60, just shy of the bottom of its 52-week track record ranging from $4.36 to $25.83.

That’s nearly a 19% yield, or what the street calls an “accidental high dividend yielder,” because the lower the value of a share of the company’s stock, the higher the yield on the dividend.

In press reports in December, Moonves said he had every intention of paying a solid dividend, but that he would do whatever is necessary to keep the business flowing. It’s time, Les.

Just yesterday, Sinclair Broadcast Group announced it was suspending its dividend, following many companies outside the media sector that have taken that same step earlier in the year.

Now it’s time for Moonves to step up to the plate and do the right thing for his ailing business model.

Taking that step, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, would eliminate $752 million in dividend payouts and put the money back to work on the company’s ledger sheet.


February Is ‘Obamavision’ for Broadcast Nets

February 6, 2009 10:44 AM

According to WashingtonPost.com, broadcast network executives are not happy about President Barack Obama’s plan to hold a televised press conference in primetime on Monday.

President Barack Obama's First Press Conference

In fact, they are bracing themselves for the likelihood of three such primetime speeches from him during the February sweeps that will cut into their profits. “We’re all going to take a bath,” said one network executive interviewed for that article.

In the piece, entitled “Obama’s Preemptive Strike,” another network executive snidely said, “His economic stimulus package apparently does not extend to the TV networks,” referring to the likely $9 million loss in advertising revenues.

And the savvy Obama picked Monday, a night that gets better ratings than, say, Friday or Saturday.

What a heap of hubris this is, given that the networks have been the beneficiaries of free government-owned spectrum since the get-go.

Throughout his campaign, Obama warned that the economy will worsen before it improves. Given today’s job-loss report, that fear has become a reality.

Upon becoming president, Obama said we’re all in this together, asking for sacrifices from everyone. So despite the hand-wringing from broadcast nets about loss of ad dollars, they will comply and air Obama’s speeches.

“You don’t want to incur the wrath of the White House,” another executive told the Washington Post.

Frankly, I’m happy we have a president who is using the airwaves to tell the nation what’s going on, unlike his predecessor, who ruled in near secrecy.

Are Upfront Bashes Obscene?

January 30, 2009 10:42 AM

CBS said Thursday that it would go on with its annual upfront ad sales presentation at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan in May, as usual.

CBS Upfront

At first blush this sounds insensitive, if not downright obscene, given that every day we read about seemingly unending staff reductions and hiring freezes, as well as pay and bonus freezes, at just about every media company.

But these annual dog-and-pony shows put on by the broadcast and cable networks are becoming tamer by the year, as they should given the media business’s continuing downward decline.

So I say let the show go on. After all, you have to spend money to make money, and these presentations are very pragmatic. It’s an opportunity for a network to strut its stuff to a large, captive audience in one venue.

And CBS, at least, has a strong story to tell. But will the other networks, like the fourth-place NBC, hold upfront bashes as well?

And the biggest question is, should they?

Why Bug Congress for DTV Delay?

January 28, 2009 10:54 AM

With the delay of the digital transition from Feb. 17 to June 12 looking almost certain, there is one underlying reason to do it: The networks simply won’t risk another ratings drop during their new seasons and would rather wait until reruns air after the May sweeps.

The Senate voted unanimously for the delay on Monday and the measure awaits likely approval in the House. From there it hits President Barack Obama’s desk for approval to a delay he already has said he supports.

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The delay likely will strain the already tense relationship between the networks and their TV station affiliates. TV stations by and large want to pull the switch as planned, saying they will lose millions of dollars if they need to carry the digital and analog signals until June.

But what’s the big deal? Apparently TV stations who have already received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to switch to digital in February still plan to do just that, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Now that’s going to be interesting, depending on how many TV stations opt to do that, and in the process create real marketplace confusion.

That begs the question of whether those TV stations that have FCC approval should be allowed to switch to digital on Feb. 17.

You decide.