The Sometimes-Fleeting Value Of TV Personality Brands
Keith Olbermann is gone again. But where has his brand gone?
Nine months into his Current TV thing, the controversial news anchor has been fired for… well, the usual reasons. He previously lasted some seven years at MSNBC. What does this say about the Olbermann brand now? Perhaps something different than you think.
Controversy has been an integral part of his brand -- even back to his ESPN days, and CNN before that. Let's face it. If Olbermann didn't get into trouble, we'd suspect something. That's part of what you get for $50 million over five years -- the supposed price tag of his contract that Current executives say he violated.
This week another TV brand, Katie Couric, is appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America." No violation here for most -- unless you have been sleeping in a cave for six years or in a domicile where no cable operator has laid fiber yet. Then you might be confused; Couric no longer works for NBC's "Today" show.
Of course, TV marketers sometimes look for confusion as a way to get viewer sampling. Nothing wrong with that. Still, "Today" show producers didn’t take this lying down: They scheduled the controversial, and sometimes polarizing, Sarah Palin as a special guest host for the same week. Former "Today" anchor Meredith Vieira was also a special guest host.
Glenn Beck’s brand, formerly with Fox News, also seems to have found a home – a smaller one, with some 300,000 monthly paying fans on his website. Interestingly, that is around the same number of viewers Olbermann brought in for his short Current TV stay -- and also around the same number of Olbermann’s Twitter followers. Could a niche Internet TV effort be in his cards too?
Perhaps that smaller niche could come on a pay TV network. Olbermann had been talking with Showtime. Like Bill Maher on HBO, Olbermann would have -- in theory -- more freedom to do his own thing and the added bonus of swearing if needed. Any TV news brand needs to find its right dimensions.
Still, personal entertainment "brands" can be fleeting; network brands have a much longer life. Oprah Winfrey is now associated with the struggling cable network bearing her name, Oprah Winfrey Network: OWN.
Nothing is smooth in the land of TV brand names.