2007 12 to Watch: Where Are They Now?
The writers strike that loomed for months before becoming reality
Nov. 5 was perhaps the most pressing new item of business to land on News Corp. President-Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin’s plate last year. Otherwise, 2007 was an upbeat and acquisitive year that included buying Dow Jones & Co. for $5 billion.
Mr. Chernin, who is helping to steer the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers during its faceoff with the Writers Guild of America, is focused on the long-term formula for the industry on the prickly issue of digital residuals and on the content pipeline for News Corp.’s TV and film businesses, both of which have the potential to affect stock prices.
“I feel a responsibility not only to News Corp. shareholders, but frankly to the future of the industry, not to make a deal that is economically indefensible,” Mr. Chernin said at a recent Citigroup conference. “We are in a world in which there are tremendous pressures on production costs, in which there are tremendous pressures to migrate away from traditional media anyway. I couldn’t responsibly participate in doing things that are short-term-motivated that could potentially hamper or handicap the industry.”
At the same conference, Mr. Chernin addressed the Dow Jones purchase and what it represents for News Corp., which launched the so far underwhelming Fox Business Network in October. The Dow acquisition, he said, represents “an area of limitless possibility” as the company expands its digital footprint.
As co-head of worldwide television for ICM, Ted Chervin continues to lead the agency’s television department, which has packaged the launch of new series such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “Private Practice” for this season. Meanwhile, packages under his oversight such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Two and a Half Men,” “House” “America’s Next Top Model” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” continue to thrive in their time periods.
In addition, the company’s international television and media division has sold more than 15 scripted formats to networks this year.
After becoming chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee last year, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., signaled quickly that the new Democratic House would play a significant role in media issues, including engaging in far more critical oversight of the Federal Communications Commission.
Regular letters questioning FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin over media ownership, agency procedures and other issues came out with increasingly tough language as Mr. Martin moved forward on rewriting media ownership regulations.
In a Dec. 3 letter, Rep. Dingell suggested there had been “an apparent breakdown in an open and transparent regulatory process” and questioned whether the agency is engaged in serving the public interest. He also announced that a full-scale probe would be undertaken by his committee. Rep. Dingell followed up that letter with a warning this month to Mr. Martin not to destroy documents.
It is clear that Rep. Dingell’s displeasure with Mr. Martin is likely to create some painful moments for the FCC chairman. And Republicans, some of whom are upset with Mr. Martin’s treatment of the cable industry, don’t seem to be rushing to his defense.
Hilary Estey McLoughlin
Hilary Estey McLoughlin’s first syndication project as president of Telepictures came out of the gates as the top-rated rookie first-run strip for the 2007-08 season, as “TMZ” made the successful conversion from Internet sensation to television newsmagazine.
As an encore, she developed an upcoming talk show featuring comedian-actress Bonnie Hunt that’s now cleared around the country, including the NBC station group. She is considering other projects for the season as well.
In addition, she is leading Telepictures to expand the presence of Warner Bros. Television Group on the digital content landscape with the launch of MomLogic.com, an online destination and cross-platform advertising network created as the ultimate destination for moms. The company already has signed Unilever as the site’s charter sponsor.
For Endeavor agent Lance Klein, 2007 marked another strong year for his clients in network, cable and syndicated programming.
On cable the UFC brand continued to deliver, with Mr. Klein brokering the UFC’s renewal with Spike through 2011. Some reports place the deal at more than $100 million. He also is behind placing the WEC on Versus, and he put together “Name That Tune” for MTV, VH1 and CMT and “America’s Best Dance Crew” with Randy Jackson and “The Millionaire Matchmaker” for Bravo.
Several projects launched in 2007 on network, and one high-profile project set for 2008 is “The Moment of Truth,” which he helped bring together for Fox. On the syndication front, he oversaw negotiations for Bonnie Hunt for her upcoming Telepictures talk show.
Jonathan Leess was appointed president and general manager of the newly created CBS Television Stations Digital Media Group in late 2004. Since then, he has been instrumental in building the 29 CBS owned-and-operated television stations’ Web sites into “always on” destinations for news with regular video updates.
Here’s how the stations fared online in 2007: More than 200% growth in average monthly unique visitors and roughly 71% growth year-over-year in video streams. The group was able to grow revenue in 2007 by 133% from the previous year while continuously rolling out new sales programs and extending the reach of the content through major syndication relationships, such as Yahoo.
Mike Pilot, president of NBC Universal Sales & Marketing, opened his initial upfront by cutting the industry’s first ad sales deal based on the new commercial ratings from the Nielsen Co. He also reorganized his sales division, putting NBC veteran Marianne Gambelli in charge of network sales and Steve Mandala from NBCU’s Telemundo unit in charge of cable.
At the end of the year, because of poor ratings, NBC took the unusual step of refunding cash to advertisers who did not get the number of impressions guaranteed during the 2006-07 season.
Certainly one to watch in 2007, Mr. Reilly lost his job as entertainment president at NBC, only to resurface at rival Fox, reteamed with his former FX boss Peter Liguori.
Mr. Reilly made some initial big buys (greenlighting projects such as horror-drama “The Oaks”), but now his scripted programming efforts are effectively sidelined until the end of the writers strike.
The chief negotiating officer at ad buyer GroupM led the industry into the commercial ratings era, cutting a $1 billion deal with NBC to open the upfront.
Some rivals have criticized the new commercial ratings for tightening the supply of advertising inventory and causing commercial prices to skyrocket in the upfront market. Mr. Scanzoni maintains that the gap between live program ratings and commercial ratings is shrinking and that, because of the new currency, networks are working harder to retain viewers during breaks, which benefits advertisers.
Steven Starr stepped down as CEO of video-sharing site Revver in June; he now serves as chairman and works in a strategic development role for the company.
Last year he produced a documentary called “Flow” about the pending global water crisis; it’s slated to debut at Sundance this month.
In 2007, Revver shared more than $1 million in ad revenue with its content creators.
As promised, CBS certainly took risks in 2007 when it launched headline-making shows such as the reality project “Kid Nation” and musical “Viva Laughlin.” Unfortunately, all foundered in the ratings save for the surprise Friday night breakout hit “Moonlight.”
With The CW, the network won over critics (“Reaper”) and buzzmakers (“Gossip Girl”), but has yet to improve its standing.
The Writers Guild of America president made a pledge to members that he would take a hard line with networks and studios to increase residuals on DVDs and new media, and he has clearly kept his word. Mr. Verrone has been on the front lines of the first writers strike since 1988. Though some have questioned the competence of the WGA’s negotiating committee, Mr. Verrone has held fast to the stance that got him elected.