Discover These TV Finances: Sarah Palin's Deal With Discovery's TLC

With the fractionalization of media, Americans are scattered around hundreds of TV networks, millions of Web sites, video games, movies, mobile phones, and, of course, growing social networking areas.

What's an out-of-work politician to do?

Get a reality show.  

It seems that Discovery Communications' TLC has won the sweepstakes for "Sarah Palin's Alaska." Say what you will about what the content of this reality show is -- or isn't. Right now, it doesn't matter if she's shown cooking steaks in Denali National Park in the dead of winter, or throwing down the flag for the start of another Iditarod. Palin's name is on it. That's all you need to know.

Marketing dollars can be only spread so far for politicians these days. Barack Obama figured that out during the last presidential election, when he raised crazy-sized levels of money via the Internet -- as well as doing some digital person-by-person campaigning.



Part of any politicians' marketing plan is a broad-based campaign: books, fund-raising, digital extensions, and, when the time is right, key direct media messages.

Palin has her marketing strategy already in place for 2012, and it starts on the documentary TV level.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, she is asking for a big $1.2 million per episode. A cable network rarely pays such rates for an individual actor/talent. Kyra Sedgwick gets about $250,000 per episode for TNT's "The Closer," one of the highest-rated series currently on cable.

 License fees for an entire on- hour episode of a cable series can fetch $1.2 million. But at those rates, it had better pull a big cable number -- like cuming around 7 million or 8 million viewers -- and not scare away TV advertisers.

Discovery's move to sign up Palin might not make sense. Consider the company's carefully designed efforts to joint-venture away some of its lackluster networks into the women-focused OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, with Oprah Winfrey; and kids-targeted The Hub, with toymaker Hasbro. With partners, giving away some ownership of real estate protects your downside.

That's not the case for the Palin series. In Discovery's favor, she has wide-ranging immediate appeal. That's its safety net.

But signing a big brand name is only one element of any show. Politics aside, it doesn't always translate into a revenue-building media asset.

12 comments about "Discover These TV Finances: Sarah Palin's Deal With Discovery's TLC".
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  1. Aaron B. from, March 25, 2010 at 3:26 p.m.

    That's a lot of cash per-episode. Probably double whichever female actress makes or has made the most before her. I'm not sure Leah Remini who co-starred for KING OF QUEENS even hit the 500k mark, did she?

  2. Arnold Boatner from Rhythm World Media, March 25, 2010 at 3:44 p.m.

    It's a big risk. The question is will she put a political spin on her observations about Alaska? Probably. A lot of advertisers steer clear of controversy for obvious reasons. Mark Burnett is pretty smart. Let's see what happens.

  3. Caswell Forrest from Pinpointadvertising, LLC, March 25, 2010 at 3:59 p.m.

    Discovery needs to discover who their audiences are? Sarah Palin maybe "dis-coverish" while she is hosting this reality show and Alaska will be a backdrop that falls in-line with Discovery's brand BUT her political antics will not fall deaf upon the Discovery audience's ear.
    While she is "reloading her base and targeting politicians that do not agree with her world view" in the news and on her facebooking, do audiences who watch Discovery live in some sort of reality TV Show vacuum? Forget the numbers and the cost of a Palin hosting, what about the potential risk against the Discovery Brand?

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 25, 2010 at 6:53 p.m.

    How many really smart people invested with Madoff for a return they knew was suspicious?

  5. Dennis Fitch, March 25, 2010 at 7:33 p.m.

    I have loved a lot of Discovery's programs. It ranks in the very top tier of my viewing preferences. Or should I say... did. As a viewer, I think the public stance of a Sarah Palin is completely contrary to what I imagine is the profile of the average Discover viewer.

    Maybe they can get Exxon to sponsor the show.

    I think...I hope the response drives them to reconsider the show which is merely part of her fund raising efforts for 2012.

  6. Pamela Mason from CIMAsystmes, March 25, 2010 at 8:11 p.m.

    Why are you so afraid of Sarah Palin? Get over yourselves!

  7. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, March 26, 2010 at 11:47 a.m.

    I'd rather Palin be a talking head on an innocuous TV show than an elected official. Perhaps Discovery can also take the likes of Jim Bunning, John McCain & Michelle Bachmann off our hands as well.

  8. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, March 29, 2010 at 5:08 a.m.

    I am not sure how smart it is for the Discovery Channel to showcase the controversial loser of the 2008 election (McCain was discounted as needing to retire soon so the vote was about her and plenty of Republican men voted for Bob Barr because she seemed to be overly victim-feminist minded). But I would watch her on TV if she brings along her cute adult daughter Bristol to a lakeside salmon cook-off.

    Seriously, as a politician, she (so far) doesn't seem to understand how to get the younger male vote. She won the battle with Letterman but still left a bad taste in the mouths of young men who didn't want him fired for presumably not knowing the ages of her various daughters. Unlike the old geezers who think someone like her is the best they could get in their fantasies, younger men aren't going to vote for her because she is "hot" and want to know, for instance, that she won't pass laws to background check them before they are allowed to talk to women like her daughter online.

  9. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., March 29, 2010 at 1:03 p.m.

    Why would I be interested in show about a person who couldn't make it through ONE TERM as gov of ALASKA? To P.Mason = the only thing that scares me is that anybody takes this person seriously.

  10. Pamela Mason from CIMAsystmes, March 29, 2010 at 8:15 p.m.

    to J. Mirow: Then don't watch it!

  11. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., March 30, 2010 at 5:43 p.m.

    Oooh - I've been tagged. Am I bleeding?

  12. Karen Bunn, April 9, 2010 at 8:32 p.m.

    I hope Burnett plops down a big wad of dough for a big completion bond...he may need it.

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