When, in the late 1990s, NBC had the brilliant idea to circumvent New York's unions by locating its cable networks, MSNBC and CNBC, across the Hudson in New Jersey, Damon Haimoff, an NBC technician, saw a business opportunity. His Media 3, the independent remote studio he started in midtown Manhattan, became the destination for every talking head who didn’t want to sit in bridge and tunnel traffic.
In some manner, Media 3 helped create the cable look and feel of disembodied heads and, as well, trained a generation of media whores in the art of talking naturally into a blank lens. It created, too, a thriving media subculture. At any time of day, arriving in their network-sent town cars, there'd be a cocktail party of politicians, sports figures, authors, aspiring pundits, and inevitables like Al Sharpton, Ann Coulter, and Donny Deutsch waiting for airtime.
Media 3 also became a decade-long thorn in NBC's side. Regular talking heads were not only unwilling to go to New Jersey, but they were even unwilling to go to NBC's studio just a few blocks north at 30 Rock.
Media 3 was a kind of admirals club for first-class passengers—full bar, salubrious makeup, and, too, a retinue of lovelies adjusting the camera angles. But the golden age of Haimoff's fine service for Wall Street talkers seems finally to have come to an end. In preparation for Comcast’s acquisition, Media 3 is no longer an option even for CNBC's most regular contributors.
It's a cost-cutting move that could mean the end of talking heads as we know them: "Why would grown men willingly and for no money give up their time to go on cable networks where, practically speaking, nobody sees them—and do it long after the novelty has worn off?" said one regular talking head. "Honestly, because at Media 3, we were treated like kings."