Steve Jobs, Barry Diller,
Ted Turner, Mark Cuban, Leigh Steinberg, Herb Allen, Dan
Rather, George Clooney, Al Gore, Michael Ovitz: Who will be the next
Citizen Kane reaping profits with conscience and class?
Which will happen first: Lou Dobbs standing
at the Mexican border with a machine gun?
The cancellation of the entire prime time MSNBC line-up of talking
for superstar Keith Olbermann, who gets it?
CNBC figures out that infomercials pitching
vacuum cleaners are an absurd undervaluation
of air time? Or.......
Remember the days of the music business suing twelve year olds and
granny, while Steve Jobs stepped into the void with the brilliant
pro-consumer capitalism that has made him
the single most powerful (and profitable) player
in the music business?
Warren Buffett says the reason Wayne
Gretzky was such an incredible hockey
player was, he figured out where the puck
would go next, and got there first. With
MSNBC, the cable industry, and the socially
enlightened internet masses its back to the
future, the original vision of MSNBC polluted
by blue suits and talking corpses, which was
the potentially powerful mutual synergy between cable television and the
higher quality and mega-eyeball communities and content found on the
Question for Jeff Immelt and the Board of
Directors of General Electric: if Olbermann
ratings skyrocket above 400,000, and Joe
Scarborough's "Hollywood Hates America"
Fox Lite imitation languishes in insignificance,
every GE Board Member who believes the
Scarborough model is preferable to the
Olbermann model, raise your hands?
This is not rocket science, folks.
Pardon my pun, but to understand how to make
money in this business, let's give the devil his
due and understand his business model. Fox
News has a brilliantly conceived strategy, a
brilliantly executed plan, and a brilliantly
produced product. Setting aside our views
of its bias, what Roger Ailes has done is create a marketing, publicity
and eyeball driving synergy between the potential power of cable
television, conservative talk radio, conservative
publishing and the kind of external outreach
into the grassroots conservative movement that Air America should have
done, on its side, long ago, but has not, to this day.
That's not rocket science, either.
The history of the entertainment business is
the history of the marriage of vision with daring.
The greatest mind in the history of the business
was the great Lew Wasserman, who aimed
at where the puck was headed and saw the
power of talent management, then the power of
corporate conglomeratization, and the power of
translating business from radio to television to
The greatest entrepreneur in the history of
cable television was Ted Turner, who saw the
puck headed towards high quality, 24 hour news that escaped the chains
of the network
The greatest thinker in the history of political
communications was Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who emerged from the
production of motion
pictures and with Jack Kennedy dominated
the medium of mass market television that
only began with the 1960 campaign.
One of the greatest entrepreneurs in the history
of entertainment, as well as the greatest talent
who ever walked the stage was Frank Sinatra.
How many times did Mr. Sinatra offer this
advice to the countless young artists he so
generously supported: "Sing the great songs,
kid! Sing the Gershwins and the Berlins and
do it well and great audiences will find you".
The true genius of the modern music business is Steve Jobs, who
empowered the consumer to choose their own great songs, to buy the music
they loved at a price that is fair, and created a monetization machine
that changed the industry forever.
It is a great history as old as Irving Thalberg
as Louis Mayer, who built an industry of
studios supporting stars, doing motion pictures
the world would remember, and as new as
Leigh Steinberg, who invented a new form of
sports agenting combining mega-million dollar contracts with young
superstars learning about
character and social conscience from a master.
The turmoil at MSNBC will set off a chain
reaction that will rock the cable industry.
Within weeks to months, I predict that while
Keith Olbermann's stock will skyrocket, the
entire prime time line-up on MSNBC will be
wiped off the map, and the when the real
battle for content and eyeballs is waged,
the real opportunity will be seen, and valued,
and the voice of the consumer will be heard once
We are a nation that demands more than
insider baseball television, Fox Lite television,
smear and attack television, vacuum cleaner
infomercial television, and Hollywood Hates
America television. We live in an age of vastly
underserved and ignored audiences, where
many of us ask so often "how come we get
100 channels and cant find anything worth
watching". We are entering an age of the
empowerment of the eyeball, where huge
and giant audiences are turning away from
the daily newspaper, for better or worse, and
ignoring low rated cable shows whose ratings
are lower than many family dinners....
In fact, today, there are multiple under-served
audiences waiting for a home, ready to reward
the Citizen Kane with conscience who gives
them respect, gives them product, creates a
home for their eyeballs and hearts and a
destination for their money through advertising
that is worthwhile and memorable, ratings
points that make future historians wonder
why cable execs today dealt with vacuum
cleaner sales pitches and shows with viewers
that barely number 200,000.
I have written here that the potential alliance
between Dan Rather and Mark Cuban could
create a new era of news and information that
combines the power of the internet and its
audiences, with the power of television in
new media and old. My only worry is that
Cuban doesn't fully appreciate the power of
the model, or Rather sells his talent too cheap.
When Rather finds his Bill Paley, who gives
him the time to consummate his ultimate
vision of television news, like Washington
crossing the Delaware, we will cross the great
divide and create a new rennaisance of news
that turns the information superhighway into
an information superpower.
Imagine 20,000,000 internet news consumers
who don't scorn Rather watching Clooney do
Murrow, as "unnamed" CBSers told the
Washington Post, but view this a badge
of honor and would flock to Rather's ultimate
vision of what network news could be without
the chains of corporate interference, political
pressures, or Guantanano-magnitude time
prisons that make serious journalism difficult
Imagine millions of progressive activists who dont really want liberal
news or progressive news, but find repellant the saturation of smear
television where disagreements of democracy
are labelled treason, or insider pundits imitating
bad dinner parties, parroting conventional wisdom to each other, as
though the rest of
us aren't there.
Imagine giving some cable voice to the many
serious internet journalists, many of whom alone bring more eyeballs
than Rita and Joe
combined, increasing cable ratings, then, by
this well earned exposure, bringing more
eyeballs to their excellent sites.
Imagine Leigh Steinberg participating in a
show where his superstar athletes each get
a special hour to talk about the issue they
care about the most, the cause they generously
donate money to, and with this huge eyeball
drawing machine, get greater exposure to
internet sites that will stimulate sales of their
licensed merchandise with affinity donations
to their favorite charity.
Imagine giving Creative Artists and the great
entertainment stars top production talent and
an hour to discuss, with passion and depth,
the issues they care about the most, and
their support for groups providing help,
whether its Cher supporting the troops,
Al Franken and Robin Williams supporting
the USO, or Clooney not just bringing Murrow
to the screen, but BEING Murrow for an hour,
on genocide or whatever issue he chooses.
Imagine using cable television and internet
sites, united in purpose, organized by project,
to mobilize the great religions and the great
talent for a special series on fighting hunger,
or mobilizing tens of millions of veterans and
military families in a battle to end homelessness
among veterans, and bring supporters and
opponents of the war together, in the great
American family, the true answer to the
politics that attacks and demeans, and the
media that trivializes and distorts.
Imagine ratings measured in increments of
half millions, not tens of thousands; imagine
associations of internet eyeballs to monetize
their worthy sites and support their worthy
causes, creating new promotional machines
for the motion picture, publishing and music
industries while they attract slumbering
corporate advertisers to audiences that
matter, and consumers who care.
The possiblities are endless, the business model is clear, the great
huge vast audience
of under-represented citizens, patriots and
eyeballs await the next Citizen Kane who
will reap enormous profits with conscience,
as Thalberg did with film, as Turner did with
cable, as Steinberg did with sports, as Jobs
did with music, as Wasserman did with
agenting, as Sinatra did by always knowing
that even the greatest voice reaches the
truest heights, by always singing the great songs.