In Monday’s New York Times, media reporters Bill Carter and Brian Stelter look at how declining ratings are affecting network news divisions, including ABC’s plan to cut staff by 400 through buyouts or layoffs. What’s most interesting to conservatives in this story is how the model may be NBC – where revenues from MSNBC’s bomb-throwing liberal talk-show hosts are subsidizing the slightly less bombastic anchors: Keith Olbermann’s funding Brian Williams? The Times reports:
The easy answer would seem to lie in NBC's structure, because in contrast to its competitors, that news organization is flush, making an estimated $400 million in profit a year.
"We actually think we have a completely different model," Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said. That model: win every significant ratings competition on the broadcast side and rely on MSNBC's revenue stream of advertising plus cable subscriber fees to subsidize the high costs of news gathering.
Other media outlets like TV Week are highlighting the newsy tidbit that CBS has talked to Anderson Cooper about an anchor job (Katie Couric’s job is up in mid-2011):
But a longtime network news executive, who asked not to be identified because of connections to previous private negotiations involving CNN, said that ABC or CBS was likely to enter into an alliance with a partner like CNN "within the next few years."
Even Mr. Westin, who said he did not see how a match with CNN "makes sense for us," conceded: "In general, in business, when there is real decline, consolidation inevitably happens."
Already, outlines of consolidation are discernible. Several CNN stars contribute to "60 Minutes" on CBS. And CBS executives, mindful that Katie Couric's contract expires in a little over a year, have talked to Anderson Cooper of CNN about an anchor job, according to two TV veterans informed of the meeting.
In a separate Media Decoder blog post, Stelter reminded readers of previous Cooper chats with CBS:
Mr. Cooper has previously been mentioned as a contender for a morning show position on CBS. When he signed a new contract with CNN in 2007, the trade publication Broadcasting & Cable said he “had been courted by CBS to take over the reins of the network’s ratings-challenged morning newscast ‘The Early Show.’”
Some TV news watchers might giggle a little at former CBS News president Andrew Heyward touting the "serious," non-tabloid tone of network evening newscasts:
Network news divisions have historically been family jewels for their parent corporations, lending prestige and an aura of public service - as well as a shield against government intrusion. Mr. Heyward called the network evening newscasts a "bastion of serious news coverage at a time when so much of television has become tabloid and trivial."
Some might find it encouraging that pretty anchor heads who can’t write may be less appealing in tough economic times:
[ABC News president David] Westin said high-priced and purely cosmetic talent would become an increasingly endangered species. "There have been people in television news - very successful people - who do not write," he said. "We are going to definitely require more of our journalists."