The host of the syndicated magazine show who left a rehabilitation clinic last week will be interviewed by Dr. Phil McGraw (who has his own syndicated show, "Dr. Phil") on a special primetime CBS show, "Behind the Headlines," to air this Wednesday. The focus of the show will be on alcohol abuse.
The New York Times made a big deal that McGraw, a CBS employee ,was interviewing O'Brien, another CBS employee. They noted that this seem like a heavy-handed synergy deal in cross-promoting one Viacom show for another.
The story correctly noted the activity of media companies cross-promoting media assets has gone on for a long time in history. Losing contestants on NBC's "The Apprentice" appear the next day on "The Today Show" and on CNBC daytime business shows. ABC's "Good Morning America" interviews actors on the ABC hit show "Desperate Housewives."
The New York Times took great pains to note that the McGraw-O'Brien interview "may represent the first time a host has used another network show as part of his professional and personal rehabilitation."
This is show business - not some psychological halfway house reality show in which we analyze the brain waves of O'Brien on a daily basis. This is a one-time event and doesn't break new ground.
Plenty of TV talent has had their share of troubles -- only to be interviewed by a journalist at the same company. For example, in 2004, Barbara Walters of "20/20" interviewed Meredith Viera, a co-host of "The View" (with Walters), about her husband's longtime medical issues.
What the story doesn't say is that with media consolidation in a few hands, there is little choice but to grab high profile, viewing-grabbing stories. High-profile stories are, typically, about television shows and personalities.
And, yes, Viacom benefits from the cross-promotion. But like the story said - this isn't really new. A better story would have been why networks choose to promote other network shows.
This Wednesday ABC News will be doing just that, airing a special "Primetime Live" show called "Fallen Idol" about the Fox hit show "American Idol." Though critics say ABC is taking a jab at some behind-the-scenes inappropriate activity in looking to bring down the show, ABC also runs the risk of increasing the profile of the Fox variety show.
Call it a highly-crossed promotion.