In Depth

In Their Own Words: Janice Marinelli

President, Disney-ABC Domestic Television

The first time I met Regis was in a conference room in New York at 500 Park Ave. Regis and Kathie Lee [Gifford] came to meet the team that would be selling his show in syndication. I had been living in L.A. for about a year, but I was born and raised in New York. I thought, “Oh, boy, I can’t believe I’m meeting Regis Philbin.” My mom and grandmother watched him religiously every morning. I was an account executive at the time.

It went really, really well. Regis just lit up the room. If there was anyone able to get a sales force excited over taking his show out, he did it. We all walked out of that meeting thinking we had the greatest show in the world. [There were people out in the country] who felt it was a New York show, and that a New York show would not work, especially in the Midwest and the South. I remember notes from stations saying, “He can not hold up the Daily News or the New York Post. He can’t hold up a New York newspaper. That will reinforce that it’s a New York show.”

The first year the show was cleared really, really well. It took a little time for the show to catch on across the country. In year two, when we went out to renew it, we took downgrades and ended up on a lot of independent stations. The show is ideally suited for an affiliate audience with a news lead-in. It took until about halfway through the second year to really click.

A lot of it was Regis’ tenacity. He thought nothing of picking up the phone and calling the TV station to say, “What can I do to help make this show work in your market?” He did interviews. We took him out on the road. He appeared in all the markets we were having difficulty with. He went to all the conventions. Talk about a man who absolutely got the power of the TV station and would roll up his sleeves. He didn’t stop. Whatever we asked him to do, he was on board. Texas was a tough state for us. It took us a long time, many trips in and out of that state, with Regis to finally turn the market in that state around.

We’ve never had an advertiser resist buying into the show. Never, ever had a complaint from a TV station about the content of the show. And any time a station picked up the phone and said, “We need Regis for XYZ,” he was there. He’s still there. If he goes into a market on other business—you know he has his nightclub act—he calls me and says, “I think I have time in my day. Would you like me to go visit the TV station? Would you like me to do a radio interview?” He’s just an incredibly hard worker.