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.