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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.

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September 2006 Archives

Aspiring Fatty Arbuckles

September 29, 2006 1:57 PM

Here we go again. Several days ago the FCC formed a joint task force with Congress to find the link between TV and online advertising and childhood obesity. Spare us the platitudes.

The facts are real: One out of three kids today is obese, but the solution is not. Don’t you find it more than ironic that the very government that continues to cut aid to schools -- which led to the demise of physical ed courses and updated playground equipment -- is again wasting taxpayers’ money on yet another study?

I say a better step would be to find the funding for physical ed courses, at the least. But that’s only part of the solution. The real onus rests with parents, who, by the way, are just as pudgy as their offspring as the nation’s obsetity levels soar.

So pry those aspring Fatty Arbuckles away from their TVs and computers (the newest electronic babysitter) and remind them why they have legs. Not only is their health at stake, so is their self-esteem.

Wrinkles in the Newsroom

September 27, 2006 3:35 PM

AARP magazine reports in its Sept./Oct. issue that on air TV newscasters are not looking forward to the growth of HDTV, worrying that it could affect their careers in an industry that is so youth-obsessed. AARP cites an item in the Altanta Journal-Constitution which reported that a Little Rock, Ark. network requested a special plastic surgery budget when it switched over to high-def. Good Morning America host Diane Sawyer, 61, told AARP that if she stayed up late the night before, viewers will definitely see the difference. GMA is the only morning show that broadcasts in HDTV so far. So as TV stations prepare their budgets for next year, you better add a new line item for Botox and plastic surgery, as the Little Rock Station did.

Google’s Spiders & Crawlers: Inane

September 22, 2006 5:21 PM

Does anyone pay attention to the “Ads sponsored by Google,” that appear side-by-side on Web sites with content that you are trying to read? Had an odd thing happen just moments ago. I went up to the TVWeek Web site to print out a copy of an earlier column I had written, “Five Years Later, 9/11 Still Hard to Cover.”

Maybe the ads weren’t there before, but I was a little taken aback when I saw five separate Google-placed ads for panic attacks. We all know the Google model. It’s about buying key words for search. And apparently the machines, and they cannot possibly be human, zoned in on one key word in my column: “attacks,” like on the World Trade Center. I never wrote anything about “panic.” Well at least they weren’t ads for “attacking” household mold or atheletes foot.

Google’s stock is now so over-inflated and the company is so over-extended into new businesses,that it’s seemingly not paying much attention to its core business. I see a day of reckoning coming here for the denizens of Googleplex. Agree?

Turner Ups Gregor to Marketing Chief

September 21, 2006 6:45 PM

You know who I like today? Someone I never spoke to in my life: Jeff Gregor, who was promoted to chief marketing officer for both TBS and TNT nets. Despite the muckety-muck title, this dude is in the trenches with his troops.

Marketing lingo like “brand enhancement,” “consumer engagement” and “personalization” just bounces right off his skin. Marketing to this guy is simple: It’s just “reach.” That means exposing as many viewers to a brand as possible and keeping them. “Look, you know after 15 minutes of tune-in if a show is working,” he says about justifying return on investment (marketing dollars) to his bosses.

So now the sports marketing maven for Turner is consolidating the TBS and TNT marketing and on-air departments. And in this case, that ugly, deadly word “consolidation” doesn’t mean headcount reduction, according to him. I’m sure all of you at Turner are relieved to hear that in the wake of the downsizing that took place at Court TV after Turner bought out Liberty Media and took control. Heads did roll, after all.

I talked to Gregor yesterday, brand new on the job. He was up to his eyeballs in the info-gathering stage and I was his first interview. He said to expect another dynamite marketing campaign for the NBA. Details are forthcoming. I could care less about basketball, but I’ll be watching to see what he does with non-sports-related campaigns. That’s the acid test for him.

'Dog' Still on the Scent

September 21, 2006 12:54 PM

Ankle monitor and all, Duane "Dog" Chapman, the star of A&E's reality series "Dog the Bounty Hunter," is again on the case. He posted bail and is helping the country sleep sounder, allowed to pursue his career, although he still faces extradition in Mexico for the arrest of convicted rapist Andrew Luster, the Max Factor heir. Production, amazingly, continues through all of the legalities. The folks at A&E seem fine about all of this. A&E ran a special with Dog's family speaking out.

It was the highest-rated ad-supported supported cable program of the evening Sept. 19.

"We just want to serve the fans of Dog, Beth and the show," said A&E's Executive VP and GM, Bob DeBitetto. He said there was no unusual legal clearance with the special. Nor was there any advertiser resistance. Nor does Bob know what Dog faces down the road, legally. Read more about this interview in my Monday column.

A&E’s Outrageous ‘Dog’ Stunt

September 18, 2006 7:36 PM

I’ve seen stunts in my life. But nothing surpasses the hype surrounding A&E’s highly rated “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”
There was a lot of huzzah last week about the possibility that Dog, a real bounty hunter with his own show on that network, will be extradited to Mexico to stand trial in connection with his 2003 capture there of fugitive Max Factor heir Andrew Luster.

Dog faces charges by Mexican authorities related to his chase and was jailed last week in Honolulu. Now he’s free, having posted bail, and A&E is airing a special report of his latest trials tomorrow night. Does anyone believe this tripe? There is no way on the planet that A&E could have produced this special without earlier knowledge about his state of affairs. I know they knew. And I predict Dog fans everywhere will glom on to this hoked-up special episode.

I suppose this is reality TV at its most real. But I sense a lot of manipulation behind the scenes. Don’t you?

A&E’s Bounty Hunter in the Slammer

September 15, 2006 1:31 PM

Talk about the tilting scales of justice, yesterday Duane “Dog” Chapman, his son and another colleague who star in A&E’s highly rated reality show “Dog The Bounty Hunter” were arrested in Hawaii on charges of illegal detention and conspiracy.

The arrest stems back to June 2003, when Dog and cohorts captured Max Factor heir Andrew Luster in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. That prominent arrest put Dog, a real bounty hunter, on the map, and soon A&E gave him and his partners a reality show. Now Dog and his colleagues sit in a Honolulu jail without bail and face extradition hearings in Mexico under some lame-brain terms of a treaty between the U.S. and Mexico.

It’s too early to see how Dog’s extradition to Mexico will affect the future of the series. An A&E spokeman said the network supports Dog and is proud of his role in helping to bring a convicted serial rapist (Luster) to justice.

According to published reports, Dog had his first court appearance in Hawaii yesterday, wearing shackles. Dog said the government was jealous of his success. Hmm. Is this the death of the series or will viewers soon see future episodes, depicting Dog and his battle with the legal system?

I’m betting that Dog will be dandy and back in production soon.

No Super-Bowl-Styled Ads for Katie’s Debut

September 8, 2006 12:22 PM

I, like millions of other voyeurs, tuned in for Katie Couric's Sept. 5 maiden voyage anchoring “The CBS Evening News,” even though I have not watched a broadcast evening newscast in years.

Sure, I looked at her hair, her white jacket, the new studio, the selection of news stories. But mostly I was surprised by the mundane quality of the TV ads.

With the countdown of her appearance afoot for months, one would think the ads would be of Super Bowl ilk for such a heralded event. Instead there was an ad for Vytorin, a cholesterol-lowering drug; one for Dr. Scholl’s innersoles; one for Advil, arthritis strength; and one for Lunestra, a sleeping pill. There were others for Campbell’s soup and some shower cleaner. Yawn.

Advertisers missed a major opportunity to crank up the creativity. Instead we saw the same old geriatric-targeted ads pushing products at the older demo. Madison Avenue blew it.

Morale ‘The Pits’ at Viacom

September 5, 2006 4:25 PM

Sadly, Viacom president and CEO Tom Freston got his walking papers today and close colleagues and employees remain shellshocked. “Its like someone died over there,” said one headhunter whose phone has been ringing all day, answering calls from spooked Viacom employees.

Freston took the bullet because Viacom didn’t have the kind of Internet traction that News Corp. has enjoyed with its purchase of MySpace (An entity that Freston lost out on.) But one of Freston’s closest colleagues told me today that it was ironic because Viacom’s chairman Sumner Redstone wouldn’t give Freston the budget to pursue his online strategies, and that Redstone had set high and impossible financial goals to attain.

Another close college said that Freston might have been in over his head, particularly in overseeing the company’s Paramount movie studio. “He really didn’t know anything about output deals,” and that had ramifications for Showtime, which is now in the CBS family under the control of Les Moonves.

Nor did news of Freston’s departure sit well with investors today, with the stock dropping 5 percent shortly after the announcement was made. That doesn’t help, given that Viacom’s stock has been tumbling while its CBS sibling (which includes broadcast, Showtime and outdoor) is actually enjoying growth. It was expected that Viacom would grow more quickly than CBS. And that pretty much explains in a nutshell why Freston got the heave-ho.

Clearly Freston is a larger than life character. For months after 9/ll, he would still walk the halls asking employees from all departments how they were holding up and offering help, said one of his trusted colleagues. “He’s such a wonderful leader,” that source added, predicting that “his people would follow him anywhere.”

Eventually we’ll see where Freston lands, and he will. But for now, I guess it’s “golden liplock,” given that so far, at this posting, he’s not taking press calls.