After taking the reins as CEO of Time Warner in January 2008, Jeffrey Bewkes moved quickly, cutting corporate overhead costs, folding New Line Cinema into the larger Warner Bros. movie studio, spinning off Time Warner Cable—all moves designed to redirect focus to the creation and exploitation of content. Still on the docket is finding a fix for AOL. At the end of the year, Mr. Bewkes added the title of chairman.
12 to Watch
- Chris Coelen . . . More »
- Alan Cohen . . . More »
- Stephen Friedman . . . More »
- David Gregory . . . More »
- Barry Jossen . . . More »
- Jason Kilar . . . More »
- Jay Leno . . . More »
- Leslie Moonves . . . More »
- Barack Obama . . . More »
- Dr. Mehmet Oz . . . More »
- Ed Wilson . . . More »
- Oprah Winfrey . . . More »
- Where Are They Now? . . . More »
Hank Close resigned as head of ad sales at MTV Networks when his contract expired at the end of 2008. Despite his efforts to format MTV’s channels to retain more viewers during commercial breaks, ratings were sluggish and ad revenues trailed those of other major cable programming entities.
“American Idol” inched down a tad in the ratings last year, but the juggernaut overseen by Fox reality chief Mike Darnell is still the engine driving the network. He got early traction with critically reviled game show “The Moment of Truth,” though it wasn’t quite the game-changer he may have hoped. Fox got better results from its relationship with Gordon Ramsay, whose “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” continued to cook up great ratings. Fox ended 2008 with nice ratings for the un-Darnell-like “Secret Millionaire.”
ABC News Executive VP Dave Davis and the network’s news division had a busy campaign season. ABC was the most-watched broadcast network for the presidential and vice presidential debates. ABC also was the most-watched on Election Night, a position it had not held since 1996. Under the direction of ABC News President David Westin, Mr. Davis oversaw many of the network’s coverage initiatives, including the partnership with USA Today for “50 States, 50 Days.”
Dick Ebersol rode an eight-gold-medal performance by Michael Phelps to record revenue during the Beijing Olympics, the centerpiece of 2008 for both NBC Sports and NBC overall. NBC got high ratings for the Summer Games, distributing events via cable, the Internet, VOD and mobile devices, all of which were measured if not monetized. Next up is bidding for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.
Lisa Hackner, executive VP of creative affairs at Telepictures Productions, continues to oversee day-to-day activity and development at MomLogic.com, billed as “the ultimate destination for moms who want to know a little bit about a lot of things, but have very little time.” She collaborated with Time’s Essence Communications on Essence.com, an online resource for African American women.
Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick
Producers Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick’s Internet-bred show “Quarterlife” flopped when it debuted on NBC in February and was dumped onto Bravo after one episode on broadcast TV. But the show’s 36 episodes have averaged about 300,000 views online, and the duo plan to continue producing webisodes. They also told EW.com at the Producers Guild Awards that they have sold a drama script to CBS.
NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman spent as much time fighting rumors as he did fighting the ratings race. Buzz that he would be leaving the network proved unfounded; instead, he and partner Marc Graboff implemented an executive massacre that saw most of their underlings replaced and NBC’s studio and network operations combined. Early ratings for the likes of “American Gladiators” fizzled, as did most of the series NBC developed for fall. NBC also unveiled its plan to strip Jay Leno at 10 p.m.
In 2008, Google TV Ads director Michael Steib’s team signed new inventory partners NBC Universal, Bloomberg TV and Hallmark Channel. Media agencies such as Initiative, Carat and Mediavest also are buying TV ads though Google. Upgrades include the ability to buy ads by demographic and psychographic attributes.
Hitwise global head of research Bill Tancer’s book “Click,” about Internet behavior, was released last fall and became a New York Times bestseller. He was featured on “20/20,” “Good Morning, America” and NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” The book will be published in 2009 in the U.K., China, Korea, Japan and Brazil.
Lifetime CEO Andrea Wong appeared to have scored a huge coup by taking “Project Runway” away from Bravo. Then NBC Universal sued producer the Weinstein Co. and won an injunction that keeps Lifetime from airing the show, leaving the network and the show’s sponsors in limbo. She also moved several departments of Lifetime, including marketing and PR, to L.A. from New York, where the network remains based.
Lauren Zalaznick oversaw record-setting years at Bravo and Oxygen, the cable nets she oversees for NBCU. She was put in charge of iVillage, part of women@nbcu, an ad platform designed to reach female consumers. Oxygen was acquired by NBCU at the end of 2007, and Ms. Zalaznick installed new managers who revamped its programming, ad sales and promotional activities.