Editorial: The Larger-Than-Life King of Syndication

Dec 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Roger King was a character right out of a Damon Runyon story. That description, given to us by Hearst-Argyle Television Board Member John Conomikes back in 2004, is right on the money.
Roger was one of those larger-than-life people who explode into our lives far too rarely. We cherished Roger for his brains, for his fun and, yes, even for his foibles. And we don’t think we’ve ever encountered anyone who had substantial dealings with Roger who, once you bring up his name, doesn’t have a wonderful anecdote to tell about him.
For example, TV vet Dennis Swanson told us back in 2004, when we named Roger our first television syndication Lifetime Achievement Award recipient: ”I was having lunch with Roger King and another guy at Gallagher’s in New York. This was not long after I’d moved to being head of the ABC stations. Now, a year or so earlier I had introduced Roger to Oprah Winfrey, but here’s Roger telling the Oprah story in a way I don’t like. I’m exasperated, and even before lunch is served I walk out. Roger and I had a deal to do, but I’m heading up Broadway to my office and there’s a jackhammer going full blast. Over the din I hear Roger’s voice. He’s across the street and with the jackhammer blasting he’s screaming terms for our deal. Screaming louder than the noise on the busiest street in the city. I scream back. This goes on for blocks. It took another week before it thawed out between us and we made the deal, but that’s Roger. He can be a tough dude in a deal, but he’s a great dude.’’
Roger reminds us of another one-of-a kind great dude, Ted Turner. We spoke to Arthur Sando, who was in charge of corporate communications at various times for both of these media giants. As Arthur noted, like Turner, Roger was part entrepreneur, part risk-taker, part visionary and all passion. Furthermore, Ted, back when he was building and leading Turner Broadcasting, and Roger, when he was building and leading King World, were inspirational. Those who worked for them would do almost anything, willingly, to please them.
Many have said Roger was one-of-a-kind and cautioned that we’ll never see his likes again, given how TV has become so dominated by corporations.
As tough as it is today for someone like Roger to appear on the scene, we remain optimistic—maybe even Pollyanna-ish—that one will break through.
The industry needs more people like Roger.

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