How Much Does On-Air Talent Mean To A Network -- Any Network?

“In many ways, Jimmy Fallon is the face of NBC,” said Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, during its upfront presentation on Monday.

What does this mean exactly -- in ratings, ad dollars or some “big data” metric? Typically, we really don’t know this kind of value until a big talent leaves.

We just learned that popular ESPN personality Bill Simmons is leaving; management isn’t interested in renewing his contract.  

ESPN isn’t the only network with major on-air changes.Comedy Central will be seeing the last of its big personalities — first Stephen Colbert, now Jon Stewart.

Historically, it seems cable networks might have more exposure to this problem than broadcast -- only David Letterman of late is leaving a broadcast network.

A couple of years ago, MSNBC lost Keith Olbermann, who hosted the highest-rated show on the network at the time. You might not want to believe Olbermann carried the network at that time. No matter what your theory is, MSNBC has since been a slow roll south in ratings.



Olbermann is now back on another of his previous stomping grounds, ESPN -- on its ESPN2 channel in a much lower-profile role. Still, I’d argue that ESPN is somewhat different from other cable networks, since it has seemingly scores of different on-air personalities, including news anchors, play-by-play personnel, as well as in-studio sports analysts and former players contributing.

We know Simmons' history: a great reporter and analyst, who has said some pointed stuff about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that got him suspended. We won't say more about on-air TV commentators being pushed to say edgy stuff to attract viewers.

Will Simmons' leaving mean ESPN’s ratings will dip? No, that won’t happen. ESPN has too much stuff on for one person to affect its overall business formula.

But, some like Greenblatt, understand the value of “brand” personalities to carry programs and networks in future years.  As TV ratings get smaller, those brands become a bigger deal.

2 comments about "How Much Does On-Air Talent Mean To A Network -- Any Network?".
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  1. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, May 12, 2015 at 2:36 p.m.

    Gotta tell you....that new popup is SUPER ANNOYING.

    Otherwise: Was Simmons really "edgy" in his criticism of Goodell? Or was he just saying what 90% of us were thinking anyway, and a rare voice at a corporate media property who spoke truth to power? And, if so, is that what qualifies for "edgy" nowadays? 

  2. Patty Ardis from Ardis Media, LLC, May 12, 2015 at 2:47 p.m.

    Well it should come as no surprise that Mr. Simmons is leaving, after all ESPN is eager to gain and maintain their relationship with the NFL, and anyone or program that causes strife is subject to severe penalties like leaving. I don't think that your comparison with Mr. Olbermann is the same thing at all unless you mean that folks who speak their minds and the truth and are paid to do so, can cause embarrassment which sometimes, though it should come as no surprise, offends the money makers (the NFL). Ratings are important but money is more important and money always wins out. This is about money and right now the NFL and ESPN like money so I would take this as a warning, do not cross the NFL. Do not offend the NFL.

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