Six pieces of advice for modern TV executives, which were moved from the temporal lobe of my brain to the frontal lobe in order to be dispensed at zero cost.


This editorial is about things that you already know. It’s similar to a laundry list of instructions from lifestyle coaches, who make obvious suggestions and comments to people who already know what they are going to say, but are nevertheless willing to pay to hear them out (or are willing to follow in the case of their digital counterparts — “influencers”).

But it’s hard to imagine a fully tattooed, nose-ringed, green-haired influencer telling people what to do.

Well, my comments are free, so they might be worth nothing, but it feels good to bring them up to the surface.

I really miss the long-ago times when Worldvision’s Bert Cohen would instruct Rita Scarfone, his vice president of Marketing, not to place an ad facing or even near these My 2¢ columns because he was convinced that the feature would upset people, who would therefore view his ad negatively. Today, the only way to upset people is to talk about U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

I personally know a few lifestyle coaches, and, in my view, they need much more help navigating modern life than their clients do. Similarly, I tend to dispense advice about things that I have never actually been a part of, like broadcasting, TV production, distribution, etc.

Years ago, I worked at several radio stations on Long Island, NY. I also produced a cable TV show for Cablevision (now Viacom, where I met the late Jim Marrinan). But I didn’t work at either long enough to be considered a broadcaster or a producer.

Nonetheless, my many years in the reporting business have given me tons of notions that over time moved from the frontal lobe of my brain (where short-term memories live), to the temporal lobe (where long-term memories reside).

Through some prodding, I was able to retrieve a good number of notions that could be useful to current and future corporate TV executives.

First of all, remember what the late Norman Horowitz, who headed several TV distribution divisions at U.S. studios, used to say: “No one knows anything!” Executives only pretend that they’re in the know in order to keep their jobs.

Second, don’t let the accounting department decide on future structures. Instead, engage the sales division. While the former are in the budget-cutting business — regardless of the consequences — the latter are in the money-generating business.

Third: Plan for the long-term in defiance of Wall Street. For this, you need a courageous board that supports a visionary management.

Fourth: Depend on new, visionary talents who think outside the box, but don’t want to re-invent the umbrella. In order not to repeat past mistakes, the new generation of managers needs to understand past practices.

Fifth: Remember that entertainment is also called show business, and it is a people business in which personal relationships are vital. These types of relationships are not generated via e-mails or on social media, but through actual personal contact.

Those who think that TV trade markets are no longer necessary (either to justify cost-cutting or their multiple local offices) are making a big mistake.

Finally, think content — not technology. If the content is good, consumers will find the technology to get to it, and in order to produce good content, talent has to be viewed as an asset and not a cost. Technology companies (like Panasonic, Sony, Thorn, AOL) that entered the content business in order to sell technology found themselves suffering in the wrong business.

(By Dom Serafini)

Audio Version (a DV Works service)

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