TV Programming Executives Who Just Say No

Keep these two words in mind, honorable TV media buying executives, the next time the upfront rolls around: Schmuck insurance.

This pertains to TV programming executives at the network who look for ways to cover their ass when something they have rejected becomes a winner at another network.

Think you know your networks, network advertising sales reps, and cool programming executives with great instincts--those you met at the West Coast development meetings on the West Coast? Have faith in the programming schedule you bought for the fall? Remember, this is what you are buying into--executives who say "no" almost all the time, and then run for cover.

In a new book, Desperate Networks, by New York Times TV business reporter Bill Carter, we find the typical back-biting, scream-fests, and programming horror decision we all know and love -- as well as this humming statistic concerning TV executives who take programming pitches: "You're saying 'no' 98 percent of the time."



That's a lot of nos. With that percentage, it would seem to be real easy to be a TV executive--kind of like David Spade in those Capital One commercials. "Remember: it's always 'no.'"

There are the well-known stories, like the one about all the network programming executives--including at cable networks such as Lifetime--who turned down "Desperate Housewives." While ABC made the right move then, the network and its parent Walt Disney made its own blunder when it came to "CSI," which was turned away.

Schmuck insurance even refers to making a blown personnel move, such as when Bob Iger, chairman of Walt Disney Co., fired then-ABC Entertainment chairman Lloyd Braun, who came up with the idea for "Lost"--a show that helped turn the network around.

One speculates how TV programming executives exactly "cover up," and what is said right before those shows became hits.

"C'mon. They're amateur singers. Who wants to hear that and some cranky British record producer?" (American Idol).

"Ugh. They pick apart burned bodies, or people with severed limbs. Not even for the 10 p.m. hour." (CSI).

And, "You want to put on a show about a former two-bit criminal who gets religion and wants to right all the wrongs he's made in his life? What am I? A schmuck?" ("My Name is Earl.")

Perhaps someone will dig up the real stories and call the book, "Lost: TV executives who are now real estate agents."

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