My Optimism Gets Fumbled Away
By Ben Grossman -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/1/2010 2:00:00 AM
Last week was supposed to be great. It was set to start off with a trip to New Orleans to see the mighty Vikings crush the Saints; followed by a flight to Las Vegas for a couple of high-profile, onstage NATPE chats about how our world is looking up; then finally back to Los Angeles in time to catch the Apple announcement that would change the universe.
It was going to be a regal week, one filled with enough optimism to ease thoughts of recessions, old devices and missing short kicks in NFC championship games. And then, the opposite happened.
As Editor-in-Chief, when B&C coverage gets too focused on the negative side of our business, I hear about it. And while our role is not to be industry cheerleader, I would much rather be engrossed in good news than bad. But people, please give me some help here.
First, my Vikings literally handed the game to the Saints, and I was suddenly stuck in the middle of that city's instant transformation into victory party central. That was a nice shift for the locals, because normally New Orleans is so quiet and understated around Bourbon Street.
The only people happier than the residents were Fox Sports execs, with the game bringing in the biggest non-Super Bowl numbers since the only viewing experience I may have enjoyed less than this Vikings chokefest: the Seinfeld finale.
Then it was off to Las Vegas, where first off, I had the pleasure of hosting an onstage chat with media business legend Irwin Gotlieb. Gotlieb definitely came through with the goods, telling me he thought the upfront would be up. Yes! Finally, some sunshine. But then he added the context, saying it would only be up because scatter pricing was so strong after the last upfront. Also, he didn't foresee any big uptick in total spend. It was like watching Brett Favre throw back across his body all over again.
But next up onstage with me was NBC's TV chief Jeff Gaspin. I gave Gaspin tons of credit for having the huevos to do this chat right after the late-night thing imploded, and neither he nor his minions even tried to suggest that any topics would be off limits (though I had told a NATPE exec that if NBC tried to do that, they'd be advised to have a backup interviewer in mind as well). And Gaspin didn't flinch when I channeled Jay Leno's famous Hugh Grant interview and opened the session with the question, “What the hell were you thinking?”
Unfortunately, the Gaspin experience was not all positive, as I dropped the ball myself when he lobbed up one of the great potential comedic softballs an interviewer could ever ask for. At one point, he called the upcoming Olympics, on which NBC Universal will lose $250 million, a “cleansing” for the network. A cleansing! So did I instantly shoot back a line about Vancouver having some pricey Drano? Nope. I was too busy trying not to crack up onstage as my schoolboy mind couldn't stop thinking about the old Saturday Night Live skit for a cereal called “Colon Blow,” but wasn't quick enough to work it in. Softball ignored. Called strike three.
Then finally, the big Apple announcement came—and landed with a bit of a thud in our business. Well, a thud that was only padded by a female-hygiene product, if you were among those who took immature joy in the title of the new tablet. I would never.
So after the dashed hopes of last week, I beg you, kind readers: give me something to feel good about. You do it, we'll cover it. And I need it.
Because instead of heading to Miami this weekend to see my Vikings in the Super Bowl, I'm off to Sacramento for an in-laws gathering. As I may have been caught saying at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse, “Laissez les bonne temps roulez.” I think that's French for “kill me, please.”
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