Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Don't Let the Door Hit You...

This should come as no surprise.

Rosie O'Donnell Is Set to Announce Today Her Departure From 'The View'

What is equally unsurprising--and utterly predictable--is ABC's attempt to couch her departure in more generous terms. According to the network, Ms. O'Donnell's decided to leave the show after failing to agree on a new contract. Nod, nod, wink, wink.

As many of you know, I once worked in the salt mines of broadcasting, and have a number of friends who still labor there. Collectively, we know a little something about the business, performer contracts, and the p.r. "spin" that's often used to mask a bad situation. And spin is exactly what we're seeing from ABC and Rosie.

And make no mistake: O'Donnell's tenure on 'The View" has been a public relations nightmare. Ms. O'Donnell has used the show as a platform to spout anti-American garbage, including her rant that 9-11 was an "inside job." Lorie Byrd at Wizbang had the stomach to assemble a catalogue of Ms. O'Donnell's greatest hits. Hold your nose and be amazed at some of her "observations."

O'Donnell's radioactive reputation was one reason that ABC signed her for only one year on "The View." Even by broadcast standards, that's a remarkably short contract. Broadcast talent is like any other valued commodity; stations and networks want to sign proven (and popular) performers to long-term deals, or at least a short-term contract with the option to renew and extend.

I have no doubt that O'Donnell and ABC bickered over money. But the (apparent) decision to end negotiations two months before her final appearance underscores the network's desire to get rid of O'Donnell. Like other media companies, ABC is quite willing to extend contract negotiations (when necessary) to secure the services of broadcast talent. In 2004, ABC's radio division continued contract talks with its morning team on Chicago's WLS-AM (Don Wade and Roma) after their agreement expired, and they had to leave the air. Eventually, the pair signed a new deal and returned to their morning slot with a multi-million dollar contract.

Obviously, local radio hosts--even in a large market like Chicago--aren't in the same league as a network TV star. But Mr. Wade and his wife had a strong track record in the Windy City, and they've never caused the headaches that ABC has suffered with Ms. O'Donnell. That's a big reason that Don Wade and Roma are still on the air, and Rosie O'Donnell is looking for a new job.

Sadly, Ms. O'Donnell will almost certainly land a gig somewhere. ABC claims that ratings for "The View" jumped 15% during her tenure, and in this era of fractured TV audiences, that spike will probably persuade another network (or production company) to take a chance on her. But the reported increase in viewers was far overshadowed by her inane rants, generating controversy that the network clearly loathed. And, behind the scenes, I'm guessing that some of the show's advertisers were getting a little restless, too. Don Imus' fate was sealed when sponsors started abandoning his program. I can't believe that major corporations were enthralled at the prospect of underwriting Ms. O'Donnell's, continued on-air tirades.

The "contract dispute" may have been very real, but it also gave ABC an excuse to show Ms. O'Donnell the door. All those flowery comments from Rosie and the network are nothing more than an effort to paper over a broadcast "marriage" that was doomed from the start.

1 comment:

Deb said...

Well, color me surprised.