Lessons Learned From O.J. Debacle?

Judith Regan was fired from her HarperCollins publishing post last Friday, no doubt, in part, for her ill-advised project concerning O.J. Simpson. Does that mean the end of this type of project or for Regan? No way.

Whatever you think about Regan, she has produced--selling controversial books about porn star Jenna Jameson and notorious radio jock Howard Stern. That's why Fox and News Corp. gave her the go-ahead. You can't hold her entirely responsible for the Simpson project.

Many above her approved the O.J. project--Mike Darnell, Fox's reality programming chief, Peter Liguori, president of Fox Entertainment, and Peter Chernin, president/COO  of News Corp--and ultimately, Rupert Murdoch.

The bottom line: O.J. got a $2 million to $3 million check with not one book or TV commercial sold. It turned out to be a bad deal for News Corp., and someone had to take the blame. There was other money spent--book production and delivery costs to retailers (as well as the cost of the books returned to the publisher), as well as the production of the TV show.



Virtually all entertainment, media or content companies fail many times before coming up with big successful projects (except for Pixar's incredible run). Money is lost. But that's okay, say executives. It's expected.

Simpson was different--a spectacularly, misconceived, public failure. Where was the research in this regard? TV producers can always whine that so-and-so research said this comedy would work with young women or a particular drama would bring in older male wealthy demographics to the table. What about Simpson?

What was the expectation for sales about the new Simpson book? What ratings was Fox expecting for the special? These would be interesting details going forward.

Here's why: these facts might point to what networks have learned from all of this. Maybe not a whole lot. Regan, who was also responsible for the A&E TV project "Growing Up Gotti," has already been pursuing other employment.  According to the Los Angeles Times, she is focusing that search not with book publishers, but with TV networks.

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