The Insider

Jun 10, 2002  •  Post A Comment

ABC execs movin’ on up … sort of
On the 22nd floor at ABC’s East Coast headquarters in New York, four executive offices are being carved out of space that had been executive dining and conference space that took up perhaps half the floor. The renovation began shortly after May 14, when two screening rooms were filled with folks (The Insider among them) who were viewing ABC’s fall presentation over closed-circuit TV because there was no room for them at the upfront venue, the Disney-owned Amsterdam Theater, 24 blocks south on Broadway.
A tipster described the new executive digs, which will give Disney Chairman Michael Eisner and Disney President Bob Iger a place to hang out, as “palatial.” The Insider thinks that while the view from 22 is indeed fabu, so are the views of the eclectic, intriguing and pricey art collection on display on that floor.
However, sources familiar with the building plans said there are ways in which the new offices clearly don’t measure up to the old ones on the 10th floor, which now house Connecticut-based ESPN’s expanded New York presence. Difference No. 1: The new offices are smaller. Difference No. 2: The private bathrooms have disappeared. On the 10th floor, Mr. Iger occupied former Capital Cities/ABC CEO Dan Burke’s onetime office, which had a marble bathroom and a terrace-albeit one with what some say offers a less-than-stunning view. On 22, he’ll have about half the space and no bathroom.
At least Mr. Iger, who spends a good deal of time in New York, will have an office permanently assigned to him in Manhattan. Mr. Eisner will in effect borrow whatever office is free when he visits the Big Apple.
We interrupt Chris Matthews for this item
Chris Matthews with more edge and attitude? Say it ain’t so! Say it ain’t possible! Oh, dear Insiderettes, it is, it is. Mr. Matthews and “Hardball” are getting a makeover and a bigger staff in preparation for the show’s move to 9 o’clock weeknights on MSNBC on July 15. “I think we’re going to broaden the scope of it,” said Phil Griffin, MSNBC programming VP. “It’s a little later in the evening. There’s time for a little more of a big-picture look.”
While Mr. Matthews will branch out, he will not abandon politics, which has defined his adult life and careers. Howard Mortman, whose “Extreme Mortman” musings have moved from The Hotline to MSNBC.com, is joining “Hardball” to troll for fodder for a fast-moving four-minute segment that Mr. Matthews and Mr. Mortman will write. Mr. Griffin envisions it as “a combination of Walter Winchell and Paul Harvey. … With a little attitude, you can almost create a great little commentary segment.”
Mr. Matthews has, of course, attitude and then some. His first career was in the rough-and-tumble world of politics and government. Then came newspapering and a TV career that started in earnest with appearances on “Larry King Live” and the boisterous “The McLaughlin Group” that led to a new day job five years ago with the launch of his own show.
His loud, impatient and adrenaline-driven style are the stuff of “Saturday Night Live” parodies.
He sighs, or pretends to sigh. He’s heard these “Why can’t somebody else get a word in edgewise?” comments before. “I try to stop,” he said, “but every time you stop talking, people start giving you their speeches. They bogart the mic.“
He’s become equally bored with what he calls “cookie-cutter matchups” that pit ideological opposites against each other. “It’s become a cartoon debate.”
Last week brought the announcement of his nice new seven-year multiplatform deal negotiated by N.S. Bienstock (the agency that also represents Bill O’Reilly) to guarantee the Mr. Matthews will anchor, in addition to hosting “Hardball,” MSNBC’s prime-time election coverage and anchor a weekly syndicated show to be produced by NBC News and which is already cleared by NBC Enterprises in 83 percent of the country. This is in addition to writing a column for the San Francisco Chronicle (and national syndication), churning out best sellers (his fourth book is due in July), taking “Hardball” out every Wednesday night for another campus tour and appearing on “Today,” “Tonight” and “Late Show With David Letterman.”
Gasp! The Insider goes into overwheeze just thinking about such a schedule.
How does he do it? “I sacrifice my family,” said Mr. Matthews, the husband of WJLA-TV, Washington, anchor Kathleen Matthews and father of three kids.
`The News With ______’ (fill in the blank)
Now that “The News With Brian Williams,” which is produced by and originates from MSNBC in Secaucus, N.J., is scheduled to move to 7 p.m. (ET) on CNBC, The Insider has found herself wondering how Mr. Williams could host his own live show and be available to fill in for Tom Brokaw as anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” which first feeds live from New York City at 6:30 p.m.
The answer is he won’t. When Mr. Williams is doing Brokaw duty, he won’t do “The News Bearing His Name.” Instead, Lester Holt (the MSNBC anchor who makes friends every time he fills in for someone in the Big Apple), John Siegenthalerthe weekend “Nightly” anchor who proves that a baby boomer can exude anchor gravitas), Forrest Sawyer (who has been quietly working on long-form projects for MSNBC) and other NBC anchors and correspondents as needed will take the anchor chair on “The News” every time Mr Williams sits in for Mr. Brokaw.