“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.