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tbs_logo.pngWhat is it going to take for TBS (or any other Basic Cable channel) to get a little respect? 

I watched the premiere week of Conan and thought it was fine and exactly what I expected (which is a slight disappointment, right?).  (Also, why was it on at 10pm on DirecTV when every advertisement in the world says 11pm?... but I digress.)

The one thing that did stand out was the constant bashing of TBS and Basic Cable in general (I know it is a joke, I get it - I also got it in 1985 when the Basic Cable jokes started).  But times have changed.

I was a proponent of Conan leaving NBC and for Jeff Zucker to be fired for many MANY reasons (including the handling of the Jay/Conan affair and for having anything to do with Ben Silverman.  Please, someone wash everything Ben touched, it's filthy!).

But, I must say, I'm disappointed with the way Conan has handled the transition to TBS.  It was a very difficult decision, I'm sure, but why bash your new home?

Why is Basic Cable still struggling for any sort of respect?

It's all very reminiscent of the scene from "Goodfellas" with Billy Batts (Frank Vincent) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) in the bar.  Imagine Billy Batts is the "Broadcast Networks" and Tommy DeVito is "Basic Cable":

go_get_your_shinebox_3.jpgBasic Cable:  No more shines, Broadcast Networks.
Broadcast Networks:  What?
Basic Cable:  I said, no more shines.  Maybe you didn't hear about it, you've been away a long time.  I don't shine shoes anymore.
Broadcast Networks:  Relax, will ya?  Ya flip out, what's got into you?  I'm breaking your balls a little bit, that's all.  I'm only kidding with ya...
Basic Cable:  Sometimes you don't sound like you're kidding, you know, there's a lotta people around...
Broadcast Networks:  I'm only kidding with you.  I'm breaking your balls, and you're getting fucking fresh.  I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to offend you.
Basic Cable:  I'm sorry, too.  It's okay.  No problem.
Broadcast Networks:  Now go home and get your fuckin' shinebox!
Basic Cable:  Mother fuckin' mutt!  You fucking piece of shit!

If you remember the movie, Tommy then kicked and stabbed Billy about a thousand times, threw him in the trunk of his car and buried him in some disgusting pit.  I'm not saying Basic Cable will completely bury the Broadcast Networks - but it seems to be headed that general direction - so Broadcast Networks had better cut it out with the "shinebox attitude".

And seriously, to watch Conan, you would think the year is 1985 and the only programming on TBS was really bad VHS copies of really bad 1970s movies and a few Body By Jake infommercials.

conan.pngThis is 2010 and Basic Cable Channels are a key driver and profit center helping to keep the Hollywood machine afloat. 

So how about a little respect, Conan?  I know you're only getting $10 million from that suckass TBS that gives you "no budget" (other than a very large one) but come on!

And are you taping this show from some local station in Palmdale or in a very nice soundstage on a very nice Burbank studio lot?  And do you have one blimp to promote your show or zero blimps?

And the last I checked, Mad Men on AMC (Basic Cable) won the Emmy for Best Drama; TBS just paid upwards of $2 million/episode for Big Bang Theory (among others); and the ACE Awards (which was a popular punchline for comedians about FIFTEEN YEARS AGO) haven't been on the air for FIFTEEN YEARS!

I would also argue that with its scripted reruns and movies, TBS and the other top Basic Cable Channels have better daytime programming than any of the Broadcast Station Groups (unless you like Judge shows) and the primetime lineups are equally as creative and catching up in the ratings. 

In fact, Broadcast Networks are deep into the 5 Stages of Grief from "On Death and Dying" - and they have been in denial about Basic Cable for years.  Retrans is one final pathetic attempt to stay competitive.

So, Conan, I'm sorry you are stuck on lowly TBS when all your life you dreamed of being on NBC (now worth negative $690 million on NBC Universal's balance sheet) - but the truth is, in today's media environment, it's not which channel you are on but the programming you produce.  

Remember, even a show shot in a shack in Palmdale can be relevant (and widely seen) today.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

P.S. - Why doesn't anyone ever bash MTV for being "Basic Cable"?  Just wondering.
broadcast_networks_death_and_dying.jpgFor Broadcast Networks, the end is coming and it's time for them to Accept their fate.

This isn't to say ABC, CBS, FOX, MBS, NBC, Univision and The CW (and similar Broadcast Networks around the world) are going away.  They'll just have to transform into one of the million other "Channels" out there - high profile Channels with good programming and production values - but still just another button on the Great Media Grid like ESPN, TNT, USA, Oxygen, (indeed), YouTube, etc.

According to a model developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book "On Death and Dying", there are Five Stages of Grief

Over the past 20 years or so, Broadcast Networks have bounced around the First Four Stages in an effort to fight off the inevitable:

1.  Denial:  Broadcast Networks will always be the only place to reach a large audience.  We don't see that ever going away.  No one is going to watch the shit they make on Cable.  It's nothing but George Foreman Grill infomercials and drunken Jackass teenagers riding their bikes into traffic.

2.  Anger:  It's just not right!  They make such crap on Basic Cable.  How are they pulling in more advertising than us?!  I don't give a shit about the ratings of "Jersey Shore", the content on Broadcast Networks is far superior and always will be.  Goddamnit!  And don't you dare mention that fucking "Mad Men" to me again!  And Hell will freeze over before we ever produce a series for that inferior platform  There's no syndication value.  It's bullshit!

3.  Bargaining:  The playing field is not level.  It's not fair.  We really need you cable and satellite operators to pay us to retransmit our signal.  Don't forget - we're the Broadcast Networks.  If you give us two revenue streams, we'll give you really great programming with high ratings and advertising rates that are healthy for everyone.  Don't you realize there is only one place to reach a large audience?

4.  Depression:  Remember when Saturday night was the greatest night on television - when three networks (and three network Presidents) controlled every household?  Everyone had incredible line-ups.  It will never be that good again.  Thursday night used to be a place where advertisers needed us to launch a new movie or car or department store sales.  Those were the days.  Oh well, at least we still have our beach houses and court side basketball seats.

5.  Acceptance:  It's going to be okay.  It's not so bad to be equated with TBS.  I mean, they have Conan O'Brien now.  They are sort of like a Broadcast Network.  And we're still bigger than most of the other Channels.  And we'll get the Super Bowl back one day (after ESPN and The Food Network have their turns).  It's all good.


The death of Broadcast Networks may not happen in the next five years but it IS going to happen and the sooner we put them out of their misery and end that painful decline, the faster the industry can heal and begin to grow again. 

leslie_moonves.jpgMake no mistake, nothing can be done to save Broadcast Networks.  It's an old concept in a new world. 

For old school TV executives and their Madison Avenue chronies who are accustomed to lavish Upfront Presentations at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden and the International Space Station, it's time to just let it go.  The Days of Wine and Roses and Fine Dining and Muffin Baskets are over.

Broadcast Network defenders (yes, Les Moonves, this means you) are becoming pathetic.  Face the facts, ESPN and Google are more valuable than CBS.  It may not seem fair - but there are many new Sheriffs in town.   Remember, if  you're in a business where single-digit drops in viewers is the New Growth, your business sucks.

So what are the Broadcast Networks supposed to do next?  Very simple.  Just accept equal footing (two revenue streams - subscription and advertising - enough with this silly Retrans business that no one can understand) and continue to run your business as just another Channel on the Grid

In the future (and it's coming), with a channel lineup grid that will be sorted Alphabetically and not by "importance" or "size" (and will include TV channels, websites and whatever else comes up) programming is, as it always has been, King . 

And may the best programmer win.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

ben_silverman_sharon_waxman.jpgBen Silverman needs to eat.  Wild eyed and gulag skinny, Ben took the stage at Sharon Waxman's "The Grill" (can't wait to blog about that some day) and continued to tell people he is changing the world. 

"I'm not 21 and still in my dorm room, but I think this company has an opportunity to be an enormous company in terms of its profitability.  I'll measure success in terms of impacting the audience, empowering storytelling and making dough."

That must be so encouraging to Barry Diller.  I'm sure he's licking his chops anticipating those Electus profits.  Seriously, where do I sign up?  How can I invest?  Ben is so focused on making money it doesn't look like he's slept a wink or ate a meal in months.  I mean, look at him - all disheveled and greasy - that's the face of success.

The Hollywood lifestyle has really done wonders for him.  I need to find out what multivitamin he takes.

From what I gather, here's what we can look forward to from Ben Silverman and Electus:

  • "Pedro & Maria" (MTV) brought to you by Proctor & Gamble.  Because nothing says Hispanic like Proctor & Gamble.  The show is basically a Romeo & Juliet remake (but waaaay cooler than Shakespeare with much better music).  I'll be looking out for a scene in a laundromat where Pedro or Maria are washing clothes with P&G's All-New Gain detergent with Stain Buster 4X.  Or worse, one will text the other "Can U p/u some PROCTOR & GAMBLE GAIN DETERGENT 4 me?"

  • "Master of the Mix" (MTV) brought to you by Smirnoff Vodka.  A reality show DJ competition.  Because only the best DJs drink Smirnoff.  And, remember, it takes a lot of Smirnoff to become a great DJ. 

ben_silverman_the_grill.jpgShows unlike any we've ever seen.  Great stuff, Ben

And these series perfectly embody the Electus manifesto:  "Allowing Content Creators and Branding Partners To Reach Audiences Like Never Before".  Because how else is MTV going to reach an audience?  Through its massive global reach and international marketing organization?  Unlikely.

And there is obviously a lot more to come from ElectusBen continued:  "We have relationships on a profound level with the A-list storytelling matrix in Hollywood and NYC.  Our goal is to win Golden Globes."

Lofty goals indeed, Ben.  But, why the fuck not?!  Greatness like this only comes around once every million years or so. 

So shoot for the moon, Ben, and even if you miss you'll land among the stars.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

electus_website_homepage.jpgApparently there is a new movie coming out called "Electus" and it looks like it stars Ben Silverman

This afternoon, I thought I would do a little checking up on Ben's $100 million dollar company and discovered that, unlike the way the website looked a month ago, there is actually some content now. 

Content starring Ben Silverman.

The content is a $100 million dollar sizzle reel with flying headlines glorifying the accomplishments of...  Ben Silverman

I stared at the video, with its horrible techno-pop / Eurotrash soundtrack (though fitting), in amazement.  Is this what revolution looks like?

Electus_chart.jpgI then went to the other page (yes, there is one other page on the site, you can't expect too much in one year) and discovered a chart

A chart that even a freakin' moron can understand. 

How can something that looks so simple (so elegant) and so "old media" change the world in such a profound way? 

I'm still trying to process how great it all is.  I'm seriously at a loss for words.

There is only one person on the planet that knows what the future of media looks like.  His name is Ben Silverman but he can't talk right now - he has an early morning call on the set of another sizzle reel he is starring in titled "Managing Expectations".

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

electus_coming_soon.jpgI see Ben got the message (though the horse and buggy logo doesn't inspire "future of entertainment").

"Coming Soon"
is a step in the right direction, I suppose.  Just be sure and have a "Thanks for the Memories" logo ready once the money is gone.

By the way, I enjoyed the Orbit CommercialJason Bateman and Will Arnett are perfect in those commercials.  They really made gum chewing cool.  

Most gum commercials don't get a launch party.  But most gum commercials aren't made by Ben Silverman's company.  And with the death of independent film, celebrity parties to show gum commercials just may be the new normal.  (The key words here are "gum" and "commercials".)

Perhaps the next step is for Electus or Notional to come up with an Award that it can give the gum commercial so that Ben can call it "Award Winning" at his next corporate presentation.

And, maybe, down the line, those five minute "gumisodes" can be trimmed down to 30 seconds and shown on regular television - then you'll really sell some gum.  But the fellows at DumbDumb may not think that's as cool.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

So, after my very long vacation, I decided to check in on my old friend Ben Silverman's new company - Electus.  Now, I've been pretty tough on Electus and Ben Silverman since this venture was announced 11 months ago(!) - so, I went to with new hope and got nothing... just an error message.

So I went to the IAC Corporate site and got a blurb on Electus - which gave me a link to this... more nothing:

electus_com_homepage.jpgben_silverman_small_motorcycle.jpgLook, Ben, I realize isn't going to be the final destination for all the brilliant content you produce (I mean, you did create "The Office" - didn't you?  Ricky Gervais owes you big time!), but how about a basic Corporate site with a little information? 

Even put up a logo - but, then again, Ricky Van Veen is a freakin' genius.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

mt_kilimanjaro_jill_kennedy.jpgNow THAT'S what I call a month off. 

As many of you have noticed, I haven't been around for the past month (replies to your emails are coming).  Where have I been?  CLIMBING MT. KILIMANJARO! 

I was told MK is considered one of the easiest of the BIG mountains to climb and would require very little training. 

After assigning myself the difficult task of bringing down big media buffoons such as Ben Silverman, Meredith Whitney and Jeff Zucker, I don't have the time to train to climb mountains.  And, yet, with only a few hours logged on the Stairmaster, somehow - I MADE IT!  More pics and stories to come on that later - but this isn't a travel blog and I'm sure you can find much more interesting Mt. Kilimanjaro tidbits elsewhere.

As I have been "off the grid" for a month - I was very happy to hear about Jeff Zucker's potential exit from NBC Universal after the merger.  I was very unhappy to hear he may receive upwards of $40 million when he leaves.  I was hoping his exit package would only include one big kick in the ass on his way out the door.

I would love to see a Jeff Zucker / Ben Silverman reunion over at the ill-fated before it runs out of Barry Diller's money and shuts its doors for good sometime next year.

Oh, well, a girl can dream, can't she?  It's great to back.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

ben_silverman_MIPTV_conference_1.jpgOK, don't go all crazy MIPTV Conference people, Ben Silverman didn't say shit that hasn't been said before by... everyone producing new media content. 

Perhaps he says it in a way that make people think it sounds new or perhaps people just want to party with the guy - but it's crazy how he can speak for 45 minutes and not say a thing.

I still don't know what the hell Electus is based on the way Ben tries to define it (the website offers no help). 

It sounds to me like a production company.  A production company that will have Facebook Fan areas and YouTube channels.  Basically like every production company on the planet. 

ben_silverman_MIPTV_conference_2.jpgIt will be a production company that acquires (or JV's) ideas for reality and game shows that can be exploited in the U.S. and international markets.  Please tell King World, Telepictures, Mark Burnett, Endemol, etc. or other companies that have been doing this FOR DECADES that your idea is revolutionary, Ben.  I'm sure they would laugh you out of the room and tell you to stop stealing their stuff.

Electus' plan is to bring Burbank, Madison Avenue and THE WORLD together before a project goes forward - basically marrying advertisers with content producers up front.  Perhaps you should Google (or "Electus'le" - which will be your way of rebranding Google - in a deal you'll announce by Press Release and then we won't hear about it ever again) the concept for the 'Soap Opera' from the 1930s. 

ben_silverman_MIPTV_conference_3.jpgIf your plan (if I may interpret it from your Press Release to announce the deal to create DumbDumb) is just to stick a bag of Doritos in Will Arnett's hand while he and Jason Bateman talk about their love for Doritos (plus they'll attempt to throw in some silly plot that's added just for fun) while one of them Twitters about his love for Doritos and encourages viewers to "Fan" Doritos on Facebook... then that's fine and dandy. 

Everybody gets paid by Doritos and everybody (probably) makes money.  It's called a commercial. 

Seriously, producing "branded" content with celebrities doesn't mean shit.  It means they're doing commercials and probably feeling pretty bad about themselves once they have to start announcing the winners of the Electus Award for Cheesiest Doritos Fanatic (which no doubt encompasses the person who can get the most people to join the Twitter feed).

There's nothing wrong with that.  Money is money.  That's why you're in business.  Just don't call it revolutionary or visionary or YOUR IDEA!  It's just a production company.  Gary Coleman has a production company.  Everybody is doing what you're doing.

Do it in 1994 as the internet is just coming into people's homes... then it's revolutionary.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

TBS Gets It Right

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conan_o_brien_tbs.jpgSo... Conan O'Brien has decided to go to TBS.  Like him or not, get his comedy or not, Conan immediately brings a "hip" factor to TBS where it currently has none.  Whether that will be enough to truly take the network to another level is a huge unknown at this point. 

I have a feeling this announcement has taken the wind out of the sails of the "I'm With Coco" movement.  For some reason, I think they wanted him to stay off TV and start some crazy live streaming Internet-only revolution from a shack in the desert.  Sorry freaks.  Perhaps you can steal your basic cable feed and still feel like a revolutionary.

This is a big bet for TBS but one it can certainly afford to take.  Two revenue streams RULE!  If it doesn't work, they can always move "Lopez Tonight" (with its 1.0 rating) back to 11pm and put the always profitable "Ab Roller Deluxe" informercial on at midnight.

The biggest obstacle is the fact that TBS still feels (to me - and I'm not alone) like a network that airs nothing but "Mama's Family" reruns and very low quality VHS tapes of 1980s comedies.  I know this isn't the case anymore and they actually do have some solid programming with "The Office" and "Family Guy" reruns, etc. and have had some success in original programming with all those Tyler Perry shows (What, are there 10 series now?  All with 350 episode commitments?).

tbs.jpgBut adding Conan puts TBS on a different level - a network level with a big advantage - they don't need Leno-size ratings to call it a "hit". 

Imagine the spinmeisters at Turner the day after its debut:  "Late Night Cable Talk Show's Biggest Night Ever!"; "Conan Conquers Cable!"; "The Colbert Killer!"... "2.0 in Metered Markets - 18-49"... Okay, they won't put that one in the Trades but that's about what we can expect on the high end.  If a 2.0 late night rating is worth a $100 million investment, then TBS has made the right move. 

Personally, I think it IS the right move - if anything just to improve their image.  All the other shit that's on TBS will suddenly be given a second look which may make people slow down the remote as they're passing by on their way to USA or FX

For Conan, I think this is also the best move.  Though if he ultimately fails on TBS, his career is over (unless he is willing to take the 1:30a.m. Last Call slot from what's his name - that guy that dated Tara Reid).  Not going to Fox and being beaten badly by Jay Leno was a very smart move by Conan.  And a very smart move by Fox - which doesn't have two revenue streams (yet) and, thus, doesn't have money to burn.

So... good luck, Conan.  You have made a good match.  And I can't wait to hear all those jokes you'll make about what a crappy network TBS is.  The crappy network that is paying you $100 million dollars.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

electus_com_sneak_peek.jpgAll I can say is, BEN SILVERMAN HAS DONE IT AGAIN

In only nine months, Mr. Silverman has taken his crazy $100 million dollar dream of and turned it into the reality that IS  

The brilliance of the homepage (at left) is its minimalism.  What looks to you and me like an "Error" page is actually Ben Silverman's 'crystal ball' gaze at the future of his own company.  It's a stunning stroke from the Master Innovator.

(and Barry Diller) must be proud and ready to show the world as they have made the link to the site live.

Media watchers (or Medea watchers) like me can't wait to see what he comes up with next.  Perhaps Lord Silverman will provide a sliver of wisdom in his upcoming keynote to the MIPTV conference on April 13th.

What a great day that will be in the history of media.

jill_kennedy_small.jpgJill Kennedy - OnMedea

About Jill Kennedy

Jill Kennedy - Blogger - OnMedea Jill Kennedy is an Ivy League MBA / refugee from Lehman Brothers.

Manka Bros. (and the Manka Business Channel) hired her (for a very low sum) to cover the world of media (not the world of Medea) in her own words without corporate interference.

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About Medea

Medea Medea was a real bitch from classical mythology - as most famously dramatized by Euripides.

She was a sorceress and wife of Jason, whom she assisted in obtaining the Golden Fleece. When Jason deserted her, she chopped up their children. One could say, Medea acted as rationally as a major media company.


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