Leaders & Bleeders: Zucker, Daniels Up, Retail Sales Down

At first, it seemed Republicans and Democrats had gotten the message from the election that people want them to work together. Now, with this fiscal cliff stuff, the traditional partisanship looks to be back so soon.

What’s nastier? Carriage disputes between cable operators and programmers that bring barbs and blackouts? Or the Washington infighting?

One thing is clear: TV viewers have reason to be thankful that Mitch McConnell is in politics and not negotiating to keep networks on the air. The Kentucky GOP senator seems allergic to compromise. Blank screens might be all over the place if McConnell were heading affiliate relations for a cable or satellite operator. And comedy-heavy networks would surely be gone given that McConnell is incapable of smiling.

In any case, while waiting for McConnell to say "Mr. President, that's a non-starter" once again -- it probably happened five minutes ago -- here’s this month’s Leaders & Bleeders.




1) OLD FACES IN NEW PLACES – CNN has Jeff Zucker as its would-be savior, while Susanne Daniels has been tapped to resuscitate MTV. The press has a fascination with Zucker’s perceived failures at NBCUniversal (some critiques may be legitimate). But his success at the “Today” show and MSNBC flourishing while he was leading NBCU -- even if Olbermann and others were more the reason -- has one thinking he’s got a pretty good shot at giving CNN a lift. Same for Daniels at MTV, where she’s the new president of programming. At the WB, she helped produce some huge hits that made the network so much more buzzworthy than its successor CW has been.

2) “SOUND OF MUSIC” – Purists may be unhappy, but offering a live version of the Broadway show that birthed the timeless film with Julie Andrews is a great stunt by NBC. The three-hour production starring Carrie Underwood as Maria von Trapp is ticketed for late 2013 and might bring a new generation of fans to the classic. TV needs more inventiveness like this. Which begs the question why NBC is doing the complete opposite by launching yet another singing competition (working title: “The Winner Is”) and recycling Nick Lachey as the host.

3) SUPER BOWL SPOTS – Ford has left the big game to competitors recently (it ran some local ads last year). But it’s buying a 60-second ad for Lincoln in 2013 -- a validation of how coveted Super Bowl ad time remains despite the cost. Last year, Ford was roasted -- quite literally -- by GM in a truck ad in the game. Later, a former GM CMO suggested that Super Bowl spots had gotten too costly, so the company is out this year. (Something says that may be a short hiatus.) Also, even as Best Buy is struggling mightily, the company feels Super Bowl ad time is worth it and it’ll be back in February. 

4) CALL OF DUTY AT PHD – The Omnicom media agency has a new internal system to help with client planning that uses similar technology to online video games. MediaPost’s Steve McClellan reports that what’s known as Source is “designed to maximize employee output.” Logical. Gaming has millions of people glued to computer screens for hours (days?) on end. No word on whether prospective PHD employees will be hired based on how well they play “Assassin’s Creed 3.” But they may want to practice: McClellan reports employees will be ranked by how well they do on the new PHD system and that will impact career advancement.

5) TiVo – When has a marketer ever bet on a benchwarmer to be its frontman? Nonetheless, CEO Tom Rogers believes TiVo can make hay out of New York Jets backup QB Tim Tebow in commercials. The Heisman Trophy winner’s name resembles the company’s and Rogers calls him an “astonishing” personality. He’s an underrated player, too. The Jets would be wise to place as much faith in Tebow as TiVo has.


1) RETAIL SALES – The New York Times reports that major retailers such as Macy’s and Target reported same-store sales declines in November, which included Black Friday. The paper said that sent "a shiver through the retail world.” The bumpiness apparently wasn’t just in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, either. Wal-Mart doesn’t report same-store sales. A decline there would cast doubt on its strategy of starting its Black Friday sales the night before -- and how worthwhile it was spending all that money to run multiple spots during NBC’s Thanksgiving night NFL game. 

2) THANKS, PARTNER – The NFL is not just taking all that money from networks in rights fees, but hurting their ratings, too? Bernstein’s Todd Juenger says the NFL adding more Thursday night games to the NFL Network can be blamed for a big chunk of the aggregate ratings declines for the Big Four by grabbing audiences. (NBC ratings are up -- the three others are way down.) Of course, the NFL season is nearly over, so the spring could offer more insight into the theory.

3) “NIGHTLINE” – One might fear this is the beginning of the end. The news show is set to move to a 12:35 time slot to make room for Jimmy Kimmel next month. And even with the interest in the election, ratings by one metric were down 9% in C3 numbers in the 25-to-54 demo this fall. Kimmel should do well in the earlier time period. Will ABC look to a companion show to go in the new “Nightline” spot?

4) NHL – Not that anyone is noticing, but a labor dispute continues to have the league on the sidelines, which can’t make the NBC Sports Network too happy. The league has cancelled one of its best shots at expanding its audience base -- the annual Winter Classic held on New Year’s Day. Baseball, basketball and football have lost portions of seasons to strikes and lockouts (baseball had the World Series cancelled). Still, none has seen a whole season go by with no play. The NHL wouldn’t risk losing a second, would it?

5) DVRs – More bad news for networks frustrated by the ad zappers. They’re not just spreading into homes, but into more rooms. The Leichtman Research Group reports 43% of DVR homes now have more than one and 20% of all TV homes do.




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