Commentary

Thumbing Your Way Through A Program Negotiation

TV program deals can fall through the cracks, with participants losing their grasp -- becoming all thumbs.

That isn't the case with film critic Roger Ebert's efforts to negotiate a new deal for his long-time syndicated show, "At the Movies With Ebert & Roeper."

His signature thumbs-up and thumbs-down reviews appear in jeopardy --- should he not review his deal. That's because Ebert, and the estate of the late Gene Siskel, his former on-air partner, own the rights to the thumbs trademark.

Right now, "At the Movies" isn't using the thumbs trademark. Disney says it was Ebert's choosing; Ebert said Disney ordered the thumbs removed.  Ebert hasn't been on the show due to an illness for over a year. Richard Roeper has been appearing alongside a number of guest hosts.

With the fate of the thumb trademark uncertain, I suggest that any other TV or movie review show just offer the finger --- the index finger, maybe the pinky.

Up or down, we'll still get the idea.

It was pretty smart of Ebert and Siskel to trademark the thumb. Perhaps other shows should trademark up or down elbows, feet or one's tongue.

If negotiations fall through, Ebert, and Siskel's estate, could sell the thumbs to another TV or film review show -- though it wouldn't seem the same without Ebert, at least, still offering a digit.

Maybe advertisers should buy the rights to the thumb trademark and use it on-air -- perhaps placing it in the corner of a TV commercial when viewers are fast-forwarding through their pricey and well-conceived creative.

TiVo already uses a similar insignia now and then to offer viewers a chance to learn more about products or services. But if every marketer had one, it would add another level of information from viewers -- good or bad. 

We are all in essence content reviewers. Thumbs up to that.

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