Chins up, networks!
Famed motivational expert 'Bob Patterson' rallies networks and advertisers to buck up as upfronts begin this week
Joe Schlosser -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/13/2001 8:00:00 PM
He looks like Jason Alexander, the former Seinfeld schemer. But he's really Bob Patterson, famed motivational speaker, author and founder of Patterson Seminar Training (PSST), "or psssst as we like to call it." He has counseled the mighty on Madison Avenue, as well as Network Row, and is in the news again because, this week, ABC will announce that, this fall, Patterson is getting his own series, which some feel will strongly resemble a situation comedy produced by Touchstone Television.
That's why BROADCASTING & CABLE, always a sucker for a good motivational spieler with unresolved emotional issues of his own, offered Patterson an opportunity to chat with B&C's Los Angeles Bureau Chief Joe Schlosser.
The full transcript of Patterson's remarks can be found on BROADCASTING & CABLE's Web site, www.broadcastingcable.com. An edited transcript follows.
How did you get started in the business?
I was in sales for a long time. I sold a variety of things, including big-screen TVs. And really the whole notion of sales is really nothing more than getting a buyer to see things from your point of view and then benefiting from them seeing things from your point of view. So if you get them to believe in a product, they buy the product; you get a commission.
Really motivational speaking is the same thing. I get people to see things from my point of view, and I benefit from them. And I assume, when something is benefiting me, that there must be some sort of ripple effect and perhaps they are benefiting themselves, as well.
The economy has been anything but steady of late. And you have a new prime time series coming at a time when broadcast TV is losing more and more ground to cable, satellite and the Internet. What can you tell network ad executives that will keep them upbeat heading into the upfront buying season this week?
Let's really kind of look at what it is. I have a little saying that I like to go to, and it certainly applies to network TV vis-à-vis cable and satellite. The saying is "I may not be as good as the next man, but the next man is behind me."
You see? So network TV may not be as good as cable and satellite. However, they are behind us. You talk about the economy being in a downturn. You are absolutely right. And what we do at PSST is we take negatives and we turn them into positives.
It's actually a very good thing that the economy is in a downturn as far as network TV goes. Because what is cable? Cable has two divisions. Basic: nobody really wants to see anything basic. When you turn on a TV set, you are really looking for something more than the basics. The other one is premium, and we all know that premium is something that you are going to have to pay through the nose for.
So, in a bad economy, nobody wants to pay for TV. And what is network TV? It's free. You see what I'm saying? It's absolutely free. They say you can't get something for nothing. Well you can get something for nothing. I'm not saying it's a big something. But for nothing, you are getting something.
Cable is offering nothing more than gratuitous sex and violence. That's all cable and satellite are. And on network, we don't cop to that. Our sex and violence is not gratuitous. It's necessary, and I think it's poignant.
Some say the ad market may be off by as much as $1 billion this year. That's a pretty tough figure for anybody to swallow. How can you help change the perception that things are so bad out there?
Here's what it is. Again it comes down to another saying: "Ask for something everyday that you think you won't get, but don't ask it from the same person because that's stalking." The way to compensate for a market that is off by a billion dollars—there are two ways to look at it.
The easy way would be for everybody to offer Ted Turner some sort of advertising deal because he throws billions of dollars away at the drop of a hat. But Ted is in a bit of a slump since Jane left.
And the other approach to it: If you say, my God, we need to overcompensate for a billion-dollar loss! But you don't climb a mountain by looking at the top of the mountain. You look at every little step that you have to take. Let's take a "step" toward a dollar. Everybody has a dollar. So I say, instead of looking for a billion dollars from a handful of companies, let's try and get a billion new companies going and they all give us a dollar. That's nothing to them! They give us a dollar, and there you go—we're compensated. Take the little steps; it's the little steps that do it.
So what can you tell a guy like Mike Shaw, the head of ABC's sales division, or Joe Abruzzese at CBS or a guy like Keith Turner at NBC? Should they be reading your books?
Certainly Mike should. Joe and Keith—I really don't see any benefit to them at all from reading my books or frankly reading anything. They should stay away from the daily papers and certainly not watch the market trends or where anybody's advertising dollars are going or techniques of advertising.
Really, I think those two guys are beyond anybody's help. But Mike I think is a very bright guy, and I intend to work closely with him.
How about broadcast network programmers like Garth Ancier and others who have lost their jobs in the past. Have they sought out your help?
Garth certainly has, and Warren Littlefield came to me not too long ago. Stu [Bloomberg] and Lloyd [Braun] are well into some programs that I think are greatly beneficial to them or have at least given them the appearance of being leaders in the industry.
When I promise you I am taking you to the top, the top is Total Optimum Perception—not performance, because it's far less how I'm actually performing than how I am perceived to be performing. So the perception is that Stu and Lloyd are doing quite well.
As for Garth and Warren and guys like that, they do come to me, and I'm not necessarily a feel-good, glad-hand kind of guy. It's tough love with me. I told Garth and Warren that they have to do a good deal of self- exploration, and it's not the kind that requires a lubricant, if you know what I'm saying. So I'm not going to schmear them with false hope. When they are ready to look at things in a slightly more dry fashion, I think we'll be able to make some progress with them.
Most of the new shows that came out of last year's upfront presentations were failures. So should we believe any of the hype surrounding incoming shows for the upcoming season?
Absolutely. Let's look at the word hype because, as you know, Bob Patterson likes to break things down and see what's really there. Hype is really not a word. It's more of an acronym, H-Y-P-E, which I believe stands for Hope You Purchase Everything. And really, I don't see anything wrong with that hope.
Why do shows fail? The answer that you will commonly hear is that nobody watched them. Which is insane. Somebody is watching everything. If it's on the air and it has even the lowest possible rating, somebody is watching it. There is at least one person out there watching it.
I don't think that the problem is the hype and the hoopla. I think our expectations are too high. No company in the world believes that everyone will buy their product. So what I think we need to do in network television is lower our expectations just a little bit. I think the hype and the hoopla is absolutely appropriate. The expectations that people will be watching—that's a little bit enormous for me.
So what do you think of these elaborate presentations put on by the networks in New York for the advertisers? Do you think it's too much?
You know what, there is no such thing as too much. Whoever came up with the notion of bigger isn't better is a moron. I can't name one thing that isn't better when it's bigger. You take a really bad show, I'll put it right back in our network television category and put it on a really big screen, and the perception is, that show is big.
Now that the writers have settled with the studios, do you think that's a good sign? Does that bode well for the upcoming actors' issues?
You know, I was a little concerned because, frankly, the issues of the actors are important issues, valid issues, issues that carry us into this brand-new century. I think it takes very strong leadership and a very strong will to be able to buck the corporate powers that be and say we are willing to go to the mat on this. I, however, am very hopeful to avoid an SAG strike because, as you know, I have my own program on the air this season, and I went to [SAG President] Bill Daniels and told him that I would kick his ass if he [screwed] it up in any way. So I'm fairly certain that we should have no problems from the Screen Actors Guild.
What do you think about all of these reality programs? Do you think they'll take space away from dramas and comedies?
I'm not worried because, frankly, I think the whole thing is a misnomer. They are called reality shows, and I don't know whose reality they actually are. They are not mine; they are not the reality of anybody I know. No one I know has been put in a hostile wilderness environment and asked to live with no food and cameras rolling. That has not been my reality. I have never been chained to four women, try as I might; that has not been my reality. I blame this whole trend on Mike Darnell over at Fox, who instigated it all. I think the last reality show that should be allowed to air is When Animals Attack Magicians and Mike Darnell.
How do you feel about the trend of former Seinfeld co-stars getting their own TV shows—Michael Richards, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander? Even Puddy has been getting strong roles at Fox these days.
Well, Puddy I can discount because he was only a peripheral player and I can't lob him in. There were four key Seinfeld stars: Seinfeld, Dreyfus, Richards and Alexander. My feeling is three out of those four have Emmys and really have nothing to prove, and they should really move on. They have accomplished their TV goals, and they need to retire. And there is one in that group who is still looking for some sort of validation that, in my mind, is long overdue, and I think, if he has a program, that would be embraced and quite a major success.
What about your show? Is that the answer to what ails network TV?
I don't know if it's the answer to what ails network TV. I do know this: It's the answer to what's ailing me, and, frankly, if it just answers my ails, I think that's a satisfactory beginning. It will give me a reason to get up in the morning, and it will afford me the opportunity to pay somebody to make the bed. Charity starts at home, and I have a very large home. I have a girl in there cleaning twice a week.
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