TelevisionWeek's new blog by World Poker Tour boss Steven Lipscomb marks this publication's second blog by a member of the television industry. As the founder of WPT, Steve often is credited with starting the televised poker boom. He's also known to say a controversial thing or two.

Just as Rich Goldfarb, senior VP of sales for National Geographic Channel, offered candid insight into the upfront advertising selling period, Steve plans to pull no punches in discussing the people, practices and pitfalls of the television business.

And remember: TVWeek.com encourages you to respond to what you read here. So feel free to post comments on Steve's blog.


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August 2006 Archives

Saved . . . by an Externality . . .

August 28, 2006 3:39 PM

In law school at the University of Chicago (where the law and economics movement was born and bred), we talked a lot about “externalities”. An externality is loosely defined as an unintended consequence of something you did – or at least a result that was not your primary intent.

Reinventing poker for television – and sparking this global poker phenomenon has had some amazing effects: We’ve created a new genre of television. Land-based poker tournaments in the U.S. this year will generate about three hundred and fifty million dollars in prize money (as opposed to about thirty million just four years ago). People don’t laugh at you when you refer to poker as a sport anymore. Women are playing poker in home games by the tens of thousands. And, professional poker players don’t lie to their family and friends about what they do for a living any more. They sign autographs, instead.

Proud of each and every externality, thank you.

But, there is one particular unforeseen impact that I’ve become particularly fond of – the poker charity tournament – a long overdue substitute for rubber chicken dinners and “am I dead, yet” cocktail parties.

In the past month, I have had the pleasure of participating in two wonderful charity events – featuring a poker tournament. And, it’s fantastic.

You get to have an impact, make a difference – and you get to play – really play. And, unlike casino nights or the like, when you are playing a poker tournament for some small (or large) prize, you get a thrill out of eating all those other muckety-mucks’ for lunch.

And, we all think we can play . . .

The Silent Blog Effect:

August 23, 2006 4:06 PM

Fascinating how the Heisenberg uncertainty principle applies to just about everything we do. We have all watched as reality television confirmed that Heisenberg’s “when you observe it you change it” certainly applies to human behavior in front of a camera (I suppose the corollary is “when you watch me you change me”). But, I was rather remarkably surprised yesterday when I heard in the middle of negotiations for a large deal that this TV Week blog had, indeed, had a material positive effect on the deal.

I was told that a number of people at the company had read my post about “The Art of the Deal” and that one of the reasons we are likely to come to terms is that it altered how they were looking at our negotiation. They began to understand that our corporate philosophy really does not countenance posturing, but rather reasoned negotiating.

I guess I just think that’s cool ...

I will let you know how the deal pans out – and what the deal was when we announce . . .

To Blog is beautiful.


August 21, 2006 7:49 PM

Just back from vacation.

Haven’t done much of that in my adult life . . .

But it is quite a perspective giver. Somehow things seem much less complicated when you take a few steps back and look at them. And you tend to remember why you do what you do ...

Not being so un-American as to suggest that we should not all be workaholics ... just suggesting that when you spend a week or two away, you see your life and your business differently—and you are better at what you do.

This, by the way, is likely to scare the bejeezus out of everyone in my company ...

“They’re All Snakes”

August 21, 2006 7:47 PM

Was the sentence that I heard myself spewing at my dear friend and General Council, Adam Pliska, as I described the conversation I just had with a sports executive at one of the networks. And, of course I knew it wasn’t true – NBC has Dick Ebersol, the NBA has Adam Silver and hell, Michael Jordon was technically a sports executive for some time. And, to all of us who lived in Chicago in those years, he’s a God – definitely not snake material.

I suppose I should be over it, but I continue to believe that business is built on relationships. When you act with questionable integrity, it affects your relationships forever. And, the affect it has on you personally is even more profound. Basically, you risk becoming that snake. And, what small, incremental decision of the day is worth that?

Michael Moore, Social Entrepreneur of the Year

August 16, 2006 1:35 PM

Okay, back to the quest.

My first post about social entrepreneur stewardship and the people who embody that spirit brought some responses, but I am interested in more input. My mind was snapped back to the question because of an Op-Ed piece I stumbled onto while taking the Block Island ferry to Christopher Walken’s summer hang-out – a fact I know because I almost ran him over by accident on one of the little dirt roads of this bucolic paradise –- sorry, Mr. Walken ...

Anyway, the headline read: “Moore and the Radical Left Take Over the Party.” The party it was referring to was the Democratic Party. And the “Moore” it was referring to was Sir Michael.

Now, you’ve got to love this guy. “Roger & Me” was a great documentary. But Michael Moore has managed to transform that moment (his 15 minutes) into a text-book example of the media social entrepreneur. He could have gotten sucked into the system -– scrambled to be what the television/film world told him he ought to be –- and become just another “what ever happened to that guy who made “Roger & Me” story. But instead, he used the system to grow his cause(s).

“TV Nation,” “Bowling For Columbine,” “Down Size This,” “Fahrenheit 9/11.” What a message. What an impact. And now his extension of that message into the Internet and viral e-mail is mind-boggling. I mean, when you’ve got the local Connecticut paper writing Op-Ed pieces chastising you for how much you influence the political process, you’ve got to be doing something ...

Few people are indifferent about Michael Moore and what he does. And, if you think about it, that is probably the ultimate compliment. I think once you’ve been in the limelight for a while you realize that you’d much rather have someone hate you than be indifferent to you.

Try bringing Mr. Moore up at a cocktail party and see what kind of response you get. No doubt, there will be a response. Lots of people fawn over him. And others say he is a rotten filmmaker -– because he picks and chooses what he uses rather than being a “true documentarian” or journalist. Not taking a side (and whether you love him or hate him) I think you have to agree that he has used the powerful mediums of our day (film, television and the Internet) to have an impact on the world -– and to make a difference.

He has managed to create his own documentary subgenre. His unabashed openness about his bias is, I believe, refreshing in a time when most of us have come to understand that all journalism has always been personally biased or motivated (even when the journalist was not self-aware enough to articulate that bias).

So here is a salute to Mr. Moore, a pillar of social entrepreneurship in the media space.

From the Inside Looking In

August 7, 2006 1:46 PM

Hollywood lost one of it’s moguls this week. His name was Paul Hannum. You wouldn’t have seen him on the front page of TVWeek or Variety or The Hollywood Reporter – though I am sure he saw his face there all the time.

Paul was the aspiring producer/filmmaker/writer. The kind of guy this town was built on. The guy who dreamed of making his own stuff, made his own stuff, distributed his own stuff and helped everybody else make their stuff while he dreamed of his stuff taking over the town.

And now he is gone ...

The hole is larger than any of us could have imagined. But, you never expect a superman to vanish from your world. Dear God, you’ve personally watched the guy leap tall buildings in a single bound ...

No way to make sense of a young remarkable man passing away before his time. There will be an awful lot of people who will look around the set and wonder what that feeling is – why something just seems to be missing. And, why those ten things that everyone just assumed would get done ... that always got done ... did not get done.

And, we should all take stock and appreciate the Paul Hannums of our world ... because without them, none of this could exist.

The Art of the Deal

August 3, 2006 8:29 PM

We read a book in negotiations class in law school called “Getting to Yes” (by Roger Fisher and William Ury). It was a reason-based approach to negotiation and deal making. In the place of posturing, highballing or low-balling, we were encouraged to substitute reason. Instead of inflating an offer with the intent of haggling back to a reasonable deal, we were taught to make a reasonable offer in the first instance – and to back that offer with sound reasoning.

Now, all this talk of “reason” works in a reasonable world. And, sometimes the deal-making world can be reasonable. In fact, I have managed to make a lot of deals using this approach.

But, time and again, I still find myself up against (or sometimes on the same side as) old-school attorneys, agents or business affairs execs who think the world is their haggle zone – and take great pride in the fact that they can squeeze a little better deal out of the other side (by yelling, stomping, threatening or whatever).

But, how short-sighted is that?

We live and work in an industry that is all about repeat business. If a producer produces a hit for you – but has such a bad taste in her mouth after the deal-making process that she never wants to work with your network again – what a grave loss that is. And, if network execs would just as soon jab a fork in their legs as negotiate another deal with the attorney representing a producer ... that just can’t be good for business.

Two solid years after I tried to negotiate a triangulated deal between our company and two networks, a high powered executive from one of those networks still is so pissed off at the way the other network behaved in those negotiations that he literally goes out of his way to hurt the business prospects of the other network every chance he gets. What a price to pay ....

Deal-making karma always manages to find its owner ...