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

May 2008 Archives

‘Commuter Confidential’ Has Legs, Albeit Short Ones

May 30, 2008 11:00 AM

Commuter ConfidentialTBS, the cable net that airs sanitized reruns of “Sex and the City,” has come up with a brilliant advertising option for Match.com and Revlon.

Starting next week, a two- minute microseries called “Commuter Confidential” breaks, starring four young women commuting in a car while talking about their experiences with dating service Match.com and applying Revlon cosmetics.

The microseries will air within “Sex and the City” on TBS.

Some critics say such a long pod will only turn off viewers.

I think not. The microseries is appearing in the perfect programming environment, and anyone who likes “Sex and the City” likely will stick around to see what sounds like a lively interchange among four working women.

Far more creative than jamming as many ads into long pods, a very bad habit most basic-cable networks are guilty of doing more and more.

I think this is brilliant, and I wish more cable programmers and advertisers would test the waters here.

Do you?

Time Warner to Acquire NBCU?

May 28, 2008 12:00 PM

God I hope not, although a lot of folks are rooting that such a deal will happen.

Now that Time Warner has spun off its cable systems, it has the deep pockets to go after the NBC Universal portfolio, which would be a perfect fit, making Time Warner the ultimate content play.

It likely would elate General Electric shareholders if the largely industrial company shed its NBCU holdings. Deutsche Bank cut GE’s price target from $35 a share to $33 yesterday.

The bank cited problems with GE Capital, but the rumor mill is rife with the hope that GE will unload NBC after the Summer Olympics.

This is not a good thing. More media consolidation means fewer choices for viewers.

And what would happen to the newsgathering entities involved? Time Warner owns CNN and CNN Headline News, while GE is in the news space with its broadcast network news, local news from its owned-and-operated stations and cable news net MSNBC.

If such an acquisition happened, count on Time Warner to look for synergy within its vast news holdings, which means carnage for reporters and viewers alike.

So, do you think this is a good potential marriage?

Yet Another Reason to Hate California

May 23, 2008 10:14 AM

Forget about the earthquakes, mudslides and the brush fires that plague California.

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that the odds of providing incentives for film and TV producers to stay in California are slim because the state faces a possible $20 billion budget deficit.

Yikes, how could the Terminator let this happen? The WSJ points to other states like Georgia, New York, Michigan and, yes, Mississippi, that are providing production companies with financial incentives and tax credits to lure producers to their states.

I’ve been writing about “runaway production” for decades. It really took off in the 1980s, when producers headed to Canada to take advantage of attractive incentives to do business there.

The story comes on the heels of ABC’s recent decision to move production of its hit series “Ugly Betty” out of California to New York.

In my neck of the woods, the Right Coast, even the tiny town of Plymouth, Mass., has obtained funding to build a studio to attract Hollywood defectors.

Don’t you expect more from the Terminator? I do.

Microsoft’s Ballmer Ducks Eggs

May 21, 2008 11:59 AM

I literally mean that, and I’m not talking about Microsoft’s bungled efforts so far to take over Yahoo to better compete with search leader Google.

Today, cable nets aired Internet user-generated content showing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, addressing students at Corvinus University in Budapest, Hungary, under attack.

What savvy network wouldn’t run this video? It isn’t every day that you see a disgruntled youth throw eggs at Ballmer as he’s telling students, “You can change the world.” The student apparently was unhappy that the Hungarian government had partnered with Microsoft.

Like that’s a problem?

Give me a break. Yep, Microsoft has changed our lives. Ask anyone back here who bought a new computer lately, loaded with Microsoft’s upgraded Windows Vista operating system, and you’ll want to throw eggs, too.

You can’t buy a computer with Windows XP anymore, and Vista simply won’t work with most users’ peripherals.

Message to Ballmer: Vista is a beta in drag.

Field of Buyers Shrinks for Weather Channel

May 16, 2008 12:02 PM

CBS and NBC, once thought to be the lead dogs to acquire the Weather Channel from Landmark Communications, priced at a steep $5 billion, probably are out of the race now.

At least I think so. Just this week, after his $1.8 billion acquisition of CNET Networks, CBS czar Les Moonves said there were no other large acquisitions ahead for the company.

Then General Electric, the parent company of NBC, confirmed its appliance division was on the block. GE honcho Jeffrey Immelt hopes it will fetch $5 billion to $8 billion.

The 100-year-old appliance division, a mere sliver of the company, is probably one of several divisions that are likely to go on the auction block, say Wall Street analysts. GE is suffering from severe cash flow problems. That doesn’t bode well for the Weather Channel.

So that leaves Comcast, the multiple-system operator that desperately needs a strong network to buoy its sorry stable of cable networks.

Also still in the race is Time Warner. And that’s my horse in this race.

That because Time Warner owns the Turner networks. And according to one of my sources, Turner has tried many times to buy the Weather Channel, for a much lower price, because it would complement CNN perfectly.

Also the Turner networks are based in Atlanta, as is the Weather Channel and its seasoned forecasters.

So who’s your horse in this race?

What’s Up With Cablevision Buying Newsday?

May 14, 2008 11:21 AM

Wall Street analysts remain baffled over Cablevision System Corp.’s $650 million purchase of Newsday Media Group from Tribune Co. earlier this week.

They’re asking what does a cable multiple system operator know about the challenging, if not daunting, task of running a profitable newspaper in these times? Most newspapers are not profitable.

Then analysts ask why Cablevision is on a shopping spree. Remember, a week earlier the MSO acquired the Sundance Channel for roughly $500 million.

CNBC’s “Fast Money” team thought Cablevision is not treating shareholders fairly. The Dolan family, owners of Cablevision, have all of the voting shares.

One frustrated analyst said the real play here is for Cablevision to spend money, drive the stock down and once again try to take the company private, something it has attempted to do several times before.

Do you buy that conspiracy theory? I do not.

WNBC-TV’s All-News Channel Could Bomb

May 9, 2008 10:00 AM

When I first heard that the NBC Universal owned-and-operated station WNBC-TV in New York was launching a 24-hour local news channel this fall, I thought it was a great idea.

Now I’m having second thoughts. For starters, the new cable channel might maim the local broadcast news, which is already hurting big time.

And let’s get real. WNBC is more than a decade late in getting into the hyper-news game.

For years Time Warner Cable has won big audiences for its NY1 24-hour local news service. It’s an excellent service, especially for straphangers who want to learn which subways are down.

In outlying suburban communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Cablevision Systems has pretty much cornered the local news arena with its popular News 12 channel. Actually it has three local channels devoted to weather, traffic and news. It works just fine.

Here is one upside: Viewers in other areas of New Jersey that have Comcast Cable as their provider are about the only viewers who will benefit, because the nation’s largest MSO doesn’t provide a hyper-local news service for that market.

And here’s another sliver of hope. Maybe the NBC all-news channel will get some ratings with viewers who have satellite TV service, or Verizon’s FiOS.

But that’s about the extent of the upswing I see for this new offering from NBCU.

Am I missing something here?

Yet Another Olympian Nightmare for NBC

May 7, 2008 12:21 PM

As if things weren’t bad enough for NBC, the broadcast net that has the broadcast rights to the Beijing Summer Olympics starting Aug. 8, now China is experiencing an outbreak of a potentially fatal hand, foot and mouth virus.

In recent weeks Chinese officials reported 15,799 cases of the virus, which has killed 28 children so far. I really wonder why the International Olympics Committee chose this site.

The IOC had to know early on. After all, this hand, foot and mouth virus is nothing new. Last year there were 80,000 reported cases of the disease that resulted in 17 deaths in China.

So what’s next? First there was the bad air issue that led several athletes to say they would sit out the competition. The unrest in Tibet continues. The Olympic torch ceremonies were met with protest around the world.

A plague of locusts next? This blogger would not be surprised.