Posts Tagged ‘MCNs’

Letter From New York 08 14 15 The Way It Was Is The Way It Is…

August 14, 2015

A couple of generations ago, when I was a young man out of Minnesota, freshly burped up on the sunny shores of a foreign country called southern California, I found myself working at KMPC Radio in Los Angeles, then a powerhouse, now long gone, gobbled up by the Disney Empire.

I was Assistant Director of Advertising and Promotions and was well liked by the sales department, having done them a couple of good turns along the way.

One of the sales people, Al Gottfried, invited me out to his house one holiday season. His brother-in-law was a big muckety muck in television movies at the time. Over crudité he and I talked about how he got started in television movies.

He told me that when he was younger and had ideas for television movies, he thought he could go pitch the networks directly. Nope, not the case, he quickly learned. Because he had never done it, he therefore couldn’t do it. It was a Catch-22. He learned his ideas weren’t bad but he just couldn’t get access.

His solution was to marry himself to an established production company for TV movies. Eventually, people got to know him, trust him and he could launch his own company.

A few years later, I was lucky enough to open the West Coast office for A&E and I entered the world of cable, which I had wanted to find my way into for three years. I learned a lot during the six years I ran advertising sales for A&E on the West Coast, followed by a stint with Discovery.

Cable was the new technology. We were gnats to the broadcast networks, annoying but not to be taken seriously, even if their parent companies were big investors in cable networks. No one worried about us.

But it became a world in which creators found new canvases; producers shut out from the broadcast networks found homes in the world of cable. Movie channels like HBO and Showtime had time between movies that needed filling. There was a busy business in programming those empty spaces. Odd programming that would never have had a chance in “television” found homes on cable – and audiences.

An example of this is “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, a delirious hoot of a program that began on a local station in Minneapolis, moved to The Comedy Channel, which morphed into Comedy Central, ending its run on SciFi, now called SyFy.

Branded entertainment is the catchword of the day, when it’s not being called “native advertising.” Cable was doing that in the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Bob Bolte of Clorox’s Media Department had a program running on USA for years that was the harbinger of things to come. A&E was doing “promercials.”

When I said that cable would one day have as much viewing as the broadcast networks, I was laughed out of the room. Then the day happened, sooner than I thought. Cable grew up.

It began to need ratings to feed the financial expectations of their owners. Cable is part of the “television” business now, no longer derogatorily called “cable.”

It has major businesses to protect. Cable needs big hits. No more “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Cable needs hits as much as broadcast networks. And in needing those hits, cable has followed the lead of its broadcast brothers. If you haven’t already done it, you can’t do it. So producers wanting to break into cable now have to partner with established producers until they make their own name. The lively, sometimes crazy kids, who produced for cable in the early days, became grown-ups but there are still wild, crazy kids who want to create content.

They turned to YouTube and Vimeo, Instagram and Vine. Suddenly you had Michelle Phan and PewDiePie, who have millions of viewers and helped spawn MCN’s [Multi Channel Networks]. Digital is the new cable and as companies who owned broadcast networks invested in the upstart cable networks, the established cable networks are investing in the upstart digital companies. A&E has put $250,000,000 into Vice, the upstart digital news service, and is giving them H2 to program.

The way it was is the way it is. We just have different upstarts this go round; as there will be other upstarts in the next go round.

Letter From New York 04 27 15 The drumbeat of news…

April 27, 2015

Waking this morning, I checked the headlines on my phone and saw that the disaster in Nepal keeps getting worse as the country finds itself unable to do much to stem the aftereffects of the monster earthquake. The country is continuously being wracked by aftershocks. There is minimal organizational infrastructure.

Aid organizations all knew that this quake would happen eventually. The Kathmandu Valley is highly seismically active, a place where two tectonic plates meet. They knew it would be very bad.

The death toll is closing in on the 4000 mark. People are still sleeping in the streets, frightened to go indoors. Food and water are running out in some areas and the threat of disease will grow with each passing day.

Four Americans are so far counted among the dead, including a popular executive at Google, Dan Fredingburg, as well as a documentarian who was making a film about the base camp on Everest.

Compounding the difficulties is that the UN and other aid organizations are all attempting to deal with multiple “Level 3” crises in numerous spots all at the same time. There is no Level 4.

In Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and many more places, needs are exceeding resources. Governments aren’t donating as much as usual nor are individuals. Need has never been greater than since the end of World War II.

Elsewhere on the world stage, the leaders of Sudan and Kazakhstan were re-elected with 90 plus percent of the votes in their respective countries. Almost too good to be true, don’t you think?

In Colorado, James Holmes, who in a gun rampage in a movie theater, killed twelve and wounded seventy, is going on trial today. He is pleading insanity though some of his examiners have proclaimed him sane. Prosecutors are protesting his plea.

It is bringing wounds to the surface for the survivors just as the trial for Tsarnaev did in Boston.

He is now facing sentencing and people in Boston torn between death and life in prison.

In Baltimore, thousands showed up for the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died of spinal injuries incurred while in police custody. There have been reports that gang members intend to “take out” police officers. It’s not known if those threats are directly linked to Gray’s death but Baltimore is advising police to take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families.

In breaking news, seven police officers have been badly injured there.

Techies will be delighted that Facebook has added video messaging capabilities to its Facebook Messenger.

Jayne Meadows, actress and widow of comedian Steve Allen, died today at 95. Her late husband was the first host of “The Tonight Show” and her sister, Audrey, starred in “The Honeymooners.” She was nominated for Emmy Awards three times in her career.

“Fast and Furious” remained the most popular movie at the box office this past weekend, now having grossed more money than “Frozen.”

“The Bali Nine” are a group that has been convicted of smuggling drugs in Indonesia. They are facing death by firing squad. One of them, Andrew Chan, has married his fiancée in the days just ahead of his scheduled execution. Many governments have been putting pressure on Indonesia not to carry out the executions but there have been no signs of it bending so far.

In Europe, markets rallied as optimism about Greece resolving its debt crisis rose today though many think it is just a matter of time before the drachma becomes the Greek currency again. Some politicians in Europe are talking about the possibility of a Plan B for Greece, which is resulting in the optimism.

In the far east of Russia, workers building a new space port are being told that they will finally receive millions of rubles in back wages after they complained on a call in show with Putin.

Putin says Russia’s “quasi partners” were apparently counting on a collapse in the Russian economy but that, he says emphatically, has not happened.

What is happening today is there is a panel being produced by the Producer’s Guild of America, of which I am a humble member, on multi channel networks, which I am attending tonight.

Outside it is sunny but there has been talk of rain and perhaps hail this evening, so I made sure I had an umbrella with me today, just in case. I am definitely hoping not to have to use it.

Afterwards, I am going out for a drink with my friend, Greg Nelson, and then home to my apartment to catch some sleep. The cottage is being repainted so I am staying away this week.