As if working at (or near) one of the Big Three traditional television companies wasn’t stressful enough, several Swords of Damocles have emerged recently to hang over the heads of the denizens at CBS, NBC and ABC. At ABC, it is the retirement of Charlie Gibson which triggered the ascension of Diane Sawyer which has left a huge question mark at “Good Morning America.” It has been suggested that Disney honchos may want a Hail Mary Solution to gobble up more of the lucrative morning TV pie, which might be a good call for the company but is distracting the hell out of Kremlinologist employees.
And ABC’s distraction is nothing compared to CBS’s. “The Late Show with David Letterman” is a big money-maker in its own right and Worldwide Pants adds to the pile. Now both are under scrutiny, along with CBS management, as the Letterman-Halderman saga plays out, everywhere from TMZ to the New York Post. If it were Letterman tangled up with an unknown, that would be distracting enough. However, Joe Halderman is no unknown. He is a veteran CBS News producer, well known to hundreds of current (and former) colleagues. And the story isn’t going away anytime soon.
But the Distraction Factor looms most large at the Peacock network. There it is not just one program or a couple divisions. At NBC, the whole company is up for grabs, thanks to the headline-driving news of talks between GE and Comcast to merge television assets. Will it actually happen? Will another player emerge to compete with Comcast for the company? What will happen to the NBC leadership if Comcast assumes control, as rumored? And will NBC News continue to shrink in importance as part of an even larger Cable Company?
For the veterans, these kinds of distractions are old hat. Morning Show shakeups, office sex and massive mergers have been around for decades. The challenge for employees, of course, is to concentrate on the job at hand–especially tricky when our industry is already suffering the dual curses of disintermediation and the worst recession in 75 years.
Erik Sorenson is chief executive officer of Vault.com, Inc. He oversees the strategic direction of the global, New York-based media company, including ShopTalk & TVSPY. If you would like to comment on Remote Control, or want to reach Erik, email remotecontrol@tvspy.