From VideoAge Daily NATPE Day 3

By Dom Serafini

This is my 600th “My 2¢.” Of these, over the years, 395 ran in various Dailies and 205 in Issues. If one could add up all of these pennies of so-called “wisdom,” the net worth would be $12, which, even adjusted for inflation doesn’t amount to much. I realize that, for a 600-page analysis and comments any consultant worth his or her salt would have charged at least $4,000. But the fact that some of the more outrageous “My 2¢” have caused a few readers agita is priceless. At least one head of a major U.S. studio distribution company (now no longer in existence) always instructed his marketing executives never to position their ads facing “My 2¢.” The fear was that its controversial nature could upset potential program buyers looking at their ads.

But those “two cents” were also a source of aggravation for me. I remember dreading bumping into Colin Davis, then president of MCA International Distribution, who inevitably would confront me holding a copy of the Daily or the Issue with the “My 2¢” page lined with yellow marks. He also loved arguing over the “tone” (not the facts and/or figures, mind you, but the tone) of the editorials. “You’re not in the news business,” he used to scold me, “You’re in the advertising business!” To him and others, my standard answer (in order to avoid being confrontational — after all, they were all advertisers or potential ones!) was, “You’re not supposed to read it, but only look at the pictures!”

I don’t think there is a subject that wasn’t touched on in those 600 editorials, which makes me a strange sort of “know it all,” considering that I’ve never been a broadcaster, syndicator, producer, market organizer or part of a technical staff. In other words, I’ve never been associated with anything above or below the line, but surely the comments left me in the line of fire.

In retrospect, though, those “few cents” of mine were more than coins. They were good mirrors, reflecting without distortion the industry’s opinions, hopes, fears, moods and expectations.

At times, poeple ask me how I can come up with so much…bull. Well, it’s not easy. There are periods when the desert looks wet in comparison to the aridness of the subjects that cross my mind that are viable for “My 2¢.” Other times, when just on the verge of giving up and begging someone more intelligent and with more wit to be a guest editorialist, something comes up on Fox News that stimulates my outrage, causing that urge to vent my frustration in a letter to our…readers.

Once, in 1989 when nothing, but nothing came to mind I resorted to writing about…nothing. I’m sure it was only a coincidence, but imaging my surprise when later on, U.S. comedian Jerry Seinfeld created his NBC TV series Seinfeld, a sho about nothing.

In terms of real difficulties, what comes to mind are the three editorials written for NATPE 1994, after surviving the 45-second earthquake that hit Los Angeles in in January 1994, reaching 6.6 on the Richter scale. It occured just a few days before NATPE in Miami Beach and left a scar still felt today, to the point that, invited to be a part of the small audience on the last episode of a live broadcast of Endemol’s Vieni Via Con Me (Come With Me), a populat TV show on Rai-3 in Italy (it averaged a 30 percent share), I was rattled by the simulation of an earthquake that literally shook the studio. In that same year, NATPE almost did not happen, also due to a record-low cold spell that his the Eastern parts of the U.S., with temperatures in certain states reaching minus 38 centigrade.

One more thing. As VideoAge‘s editor, I can now afford to write “I don’t think,” though using it during my days at TV/Radio Age could have been reason enough for being fired. “All humans think,” then editorial director Al Joffe used to scold me! And his opinions were worth much more that two cents.

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