Commentary

Selling A TV Network, Inside Stock Market Info, Or Alec Baldwin Jokes

Nobody is selling a broadcasting network today -- not Walt Disney, not Sumner Redstone, not Comcast (wait, we are getting ahead of ourselves).

But people are, in fact, trying to sell information about the possible selling of a broadcast network. One opportunistic -- and former -- Walt Disney employee allegedly only wanted some $15,000 for such insider information. That seems cheap compared to what one would imagine for the potential multi-billion sale of a network such as ABC.

That information was false, however -- even though Bob Iger, president/CEO of Walt Disney Company said about ABC that he would never rule out anything. Viacom and CBS chief Sumner Redstone were more adamant on Wednesday: He is "never" going to sell Viacom or CBS to anyone.

This is the second major media entertainment business security breach in a week.

The first seems a little less serious. About a week ago, NBC James Hibberd of The Hollywood Reporter revealed not just the network's new prime-time schedule -- but more importantly, the jokes from NBC's upfront presentation -- a full 24 hours before they were intended to be released.

Television executives are a testy lot. They want their earnings reports and Alec Baldwin quips released exactly when they are supposed to. One involves strict Securities and Exchange Commission and federal law issues; the other, the more serious problem of dealing with pissed-off Hollywood agents.

There's little doubt the changing face of television, media and entertainment in general has put a few ideas into executives' heads about the worth of a traditional TV network. Much has been talked about the new revenue source: networks and TV stations will be getting retranmission fees of some $400 million a year.

But this is still a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly 50-50 revenue split cable networks get respectively from advertising sales and cable operators affiliate fees.

Broadcast networks are still the king of the hill -- but not when it comes to profitability and the still-in-flux digital media platform business dynamics.

Are we buying all of what networks are selling these days? The supposedly stronger upfront advertising market is near, which could be a key test. I'm buying in -- as well as any discounted network presentation jokes.

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