The Insider

Jun 18, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Shhhhhh! Consultant at work
Speaking of secret weapons, ABC has quietly hired itself a marketing and synergy consultant to help raise and otherwise buff the network’s brands. Genial Joe Armstrong has a twang that sounds as if he has just left his stomping grounds of Texas, but he’s been a fixture on the publishing and social scenes in New York for years. “He knows everybody,” says everybody who knows Mr. Armstrong, whether from stops at Rolling Stone, where he was publisher in the mid-`70s, or upper-echelon roles with New York magazine, USA Today, Meigher Communications and Capital Publishing to appearances in the many New York columns that mention names only if they’re worthy of bold-facing. A quick check of Big Apple newspaper archives turns up descriptions of Mr. Armstrong as everything from an escort of Barbara Walters to a Hamptons film premiere to “magazine guru” and publishing luminary. At any rate, ABC hadn’t been looking for mentions of Mr. Armstrong in his new role. So we’ll just say he’s reporting to Zenia Mucha, the Burbank, Calif.-based senior veep who oversees communications for ABC’s Broadcast Group and TV network, and he is focusing first on ABC News.
What would Reege say here?
Speaking of ABC, it wasn’t the news the celebrity/stunt episodes of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” are now scheduled to air on Mondays and regular episodes of the game show on Thursdays-a flip flop from what was announced last month to advertisers-that raised eyebrows on affiliate faces at the first of five regional meetings with ABC network executives last week. What caused a stir was the distinct impression that Stu Bloomberg’s announcement came as a surprise to Alex Wallau, who oversees the entertainment division. Unschooled The Insider may be in swimming with sharks, but she learned long ago that it is a rare executive who likes being surprised at his or her own dog-and-pony shows.
A informal NAB seat for Padden
The National Association of Broadcasters’ only remaining Big 4 TV network member-Preston Padden, The Walt Disney Co. executive vice president of government relations-lost his vote on the association’s executive committee last week. No, he wasn’t canned by angry affiliates. Instead, he was sidelined by a long-standing NAB policy that designates one executive committee seat for NAB network members, with the slot rotating among them annually. Since Fox, NBC and CBS have bailed out of the group, the seat will be held for the next year by Dean Goodman, Pax TV president. Mr. Padden plans to continue attending executive committee meetings. “All board members are welcome … and I was specifically encouraged to attend,” Mr. Padden said. “Since I am in Washington, that’s what I am going to do.”
Don’t hate her because she’s everywhere
KTTV, Los Angeles, morning weatherbabe Jillian Barberie has it all, including a co-anchor wise enough to know a rising star shines on all around her. Steve Edwards says he’s not jealous that his cohort’s face is on everything from cover-girly promos for the Fox station’s sweeps-winning morning show to the new billboard at the station touting FX’s “The Test,”which stars the peripatetic Ms. Barberie-remember, she also does weather for “Fox NFL Sunday” during football season and has a development deal at Twentieth Television. “I told her I was upset because I was in my car yesterday, and I went three minutes without seeing a billboard of her or her face on the side of a bus. I was concerned that maybe it meant her career was over,” joked Mr. Edwards. “I have volunteered any energy and resources that might be used on my career to be donated to Jillian’s career. In my car, my coffee mug has her picture on it.” In other words, far from being jealous when he passes her billboard as he pulls into the station every morning, Mr. Edwards joked, “I am happy to ride her success as far as it’ll take me.” The Insider so hopes that some of that sentiment was captured by the BBC crew that recently made a pilgrimage to KTTV to feature Ms. Barberie in a report on fame for the Beeb.
The final word
Andy Lack loves to fine-tune programming. Always has. Never has been able to resist the urge to look over the shoulders of producers who worked for him. Probably never will. As president of NBC News, he could and did often seem extraordinarily devoted to everything on MSNBC-the cable channel that was his all-news baby. Now that Mr. Lack has moved up to president of NBC, The Insider hears he has been devoted to CNBC’s “Business Center,” especially the hour that goes head-to-head with CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Moneyline.” The Peacock Network president has been calling very specific shots on everything from teases to story order on “Business Center.” It should be noted that over its first few weeks, that coaching seems to be working. “Business Center” has a significant ratings edge over “Moneyline.”