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June 2007 Archives

TV Biz 'Cowardly'

June 28, 2007 12:23 PM

That’s the gist of what Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said about the TV biz in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on TV violence earlier this week. He called the industry “cowardly” in blaming parents for letting their kids see violence on TV, rather than itself.

Earlier Sen. Rockefeller introduced legislation in Congress that would let the FCC regulate TV violence. The FCC already has the power to issue fees for indecency, ala the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction during a Super Bowl game several years ago.

So should the TV industry shoulder more responsibility for what it airs on TV? I say no. Broadcasters and cable operators have been dutiful in providing V chips and providing ample warnings in shows that the content might not be suitable for children.

Where in the heck are the parents? Last week at a flea market I saw a booth of cheap toys and was freaked out to see toy guns that looked like the real thing: semi-automatic hand guns, just like the police carry. The toy gun did have a red tip on the end, barely noticeable, to indicate that it was a toy.

But during a violent incident, when a police officer has to react quickly, those toy guys could, and have been mistaken for the real deal. But where’s the censorship there, with that flea market vendor selling something that could potentially be confused for a real weapon?

Bottom line: parents, and not the TV industry or that flea market vendor are responsible for their children’s behavior.

Containing Celebrity Leaks: Good Luck

June 26, 2007 12:55 PM

If you were an on-air TV news talent would you tell the gossip-filled New York Post before telling your employer that you secretly married in April and were now expecting twins in January?

I doubt it. But that’s what Nancy Grace, 47, did when she told the Post that tonight she would announce her big news on her CNN Headline News show and that she had not yet informed CNN of her happy news.

My pals in public relations say handling on-air “talent” is the most thankless part of their jobs, and that there’s just no way of stopping somebody who wants his or her name in the papers, prior to a company’s plans on making an announcement.

Just last month, Nancy Grace negotiated to opt out of her other gig on “Court TV,” telling the Post that she knew at that point something had to give, given her new life situation. Like most on-air talent, Grace also has her own personal publicist, in this case, purportedly, a former “Court TV” employee who is said to be friends with the Post’s reporter who got the leak.

So what’s next? Will the press-hungry Nancy Grace have her publicist shop around for first dibs on pix when the babies are born in January?

Why 'Enable' Paris Hilton?

June 22, 2007 12:39 PM

If it’s true that NBC is paying Paris Hilton $1 million for her first TV interview out of the slammer, something that the Peacock network won’t comment on, that’s akin to giving a junkie a heroin fix.

According to the New York Post, NBC offered the family that princely chunk of change for an interview that will air the day after she is sprung with “Today Show” co-host Meredith Vieira. Yep, I guess Paris did learn something in the slammer after all—how much she craves the spotlight. So much for those crocodile tears and how being locked up has changed her life.

Given all the subsequent bad buzz about NBC’s journalistic ethics, possibly paying for a celebrity profile, I’m beginning to wonder if this interview with Hilton will happen after all. I hope not because it really lowers the bar for broadcast newsgathering organizations.

But is the “Today Show” about newsgathering at all? As it morphs along, “Today” is starting to look more like “Entertainment Tonight.” And that’s fine if that’s the goal. But don’t further enable Paris, a publicity junkie, and dignify this “interview” by calling it news.

Verizon’s FiOS TV Enjoys Growth Spurt

June 20, 2007 12:27 PM

Much to the chagrin of cable operators, Verizon’s FiOS digital video service is picking up steam. At a conference in Chicago today the telco’s chairman, Ivan Seidenberg, said it has nearly half a million subscribers since its launch just 20 months ago.

When you think about it, that’s currently the size of a small cable MSO. Seidenberg says it will be available to 9 million homes by year’s end. Right now the service is available in 3 million homes, and with nearly half a million people already signing on, you have to acknowledge that it is indeed an impressive take rate.

And if those take rates prevail, by year’s end it could be as large, or larger, than some of the top 20 cable MSO’s. That should be an alarming wakeup call to cable because this competitor is rapidly gaining subs, probably winning them from cable. What can cable do to stymie Verizon’s growth? Nothing.

FCC’s Martin Still Riding A La Carte Horse

June 15, 2007 12:51 PM

Here we go again as FCC Chairman Kevin Martin endorsed a bill yesterday that would force cable ops to offer a family tier (excuse me, but many already or soon will) or let parents, who pay the bills, get rebates for channels they have blocked from their children. In other words, here’s another twist on a la carte.

I can live with family tiers, and so can the cable industry. But letting consumers get rebates on channels in a pre-packaged tier, such as expanded basic, truly opens up a Pandora’s box for all. What’s to stop some enterprising soul like me from saying, “Gee, I find sports programming violent, and no longer want to pay for ESPN?” You know, all that spitting and tobacco chewing, not to mention the violent fights in hockey.

As a consumer, I would love it, never having watched, but paid for ESPN ever since I’ve had cable. But realistically, if a la carte became a reality it would ruin an economic model that pretty much works for everyone, including viewers. If cable subscribers paid for only what they watched they might be surprised how expensive it would be to order, channel by channel off of an la carte menu.

Toyota: One Savvy Advertiser

June 13, 2007 12:30 PM

There’s a reason Toyota is the fastest-growing automaker worldwide: Not only does it make great cars, thanks to efficient manufacturing, but it also throws around its TV ad dollars wisely.

When TNT airs its premiere episode for the third season of “The Closer” June 18, it will run commercial-free, sponsored only by Toyota, which bought the bragging rights to the opening teaser pod. Smart choice to be the only hawker in cable’s most popular original ad-supported TV series.

And smart move by TNT to lure in new viewers and old viewers of the series with the gift of no ads. Cable nets in particular are notorious for commercial overload, running far more spots and pods than broadcast nets. I actually gave up on some cable show I was watching in real time when, four minutes into the show, a pod with five ads appeared. And that pace of four minutes of programming and a blast of spots continued, totally turning me off. What a dunderheaded way of sucking a new viewer into a show. A click and I was out of there.

And all of the cable nets do it, including TNT, to one extent or another. So the burning question today is which cable net is most guilty of commercial overload?

Celebrity Justice: Paris Out of the Slammer

June 7, 2007 1:55 PM

Can’t say I’m surprised that celebrity heiress Paris Hilton is out of jail, serving only three days of her 23-day sentence. I’m surprised she was in for even one night. Now the 26-year old star of Fox’s reality series “The Simple Life,” has to stay at home for 40 days wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, which probably came from Tiffany’s.

Oh the hardship of it all. Poor thing got out because of an “unspecified medical problem.” Well at least she’s home and presumably not driving while under the influence, nor set loose, for now, on the unsuspecting law abiding citizens of LA.

The good news is we won’t have to hear and see her travails in jail on the cable news nets for the next 20 days. The bad news is I’m sure some creative cable network will come up with a special about her short-lived stay in jail. After all, The Biography Channel whipped one up about Anna Nicole Smith shortly after she died. And don’t bother watching the news tonight. We might have lost another dozen soldiers in Iraq, but that news will be overshadowed by this ridiculous moment in a spoiled brat’s sensational life.

Why are we such voyeurs?