ABC News’ “More Americans…” Slogan Safe

Last week, when the Drudge Report scooped the possible sale by Disney of the ABC Radio network and its stations, the news immediately made us wonder: What will become of the ABC News motto, “More Americans get their news from ABC News than from any other source”? Because that carefully worded bit of corporate braggadocio relies on the fact that, when you combine the audience for ABC News’ television news, online news and radio news (there are 2,500 ABC Radio affiliates), then you’ve got your audience supremacy.

After all, everybody knows that, on the TV news side, ABC has been sandwiched between a laggard CBS and the top-rated NBC for a long time—a point underscored in July when NBC floated the slogan, “More Americans watch NBC News than any other news organization in the world.”

With visions of “Fewer Americans get their news…” headlines dancing in our head, we called ABC News to inquire. The slogan appears to be safe after all. In the event of a deal, Disney likely would structure it so that the company would end up owning half of the acquiring company and would keep running ABC News, which the radio division actually “buys” through a contract with the news division. Assuming the acquiring company would itself already own some stations, it’s entirely possible that the radio network would expand and that even more Americans will be getting their news from ABC News. And by the way, an ABC insider tells us negotiations are moving forward.

Wright: No To All-Lib TV

Symposiums can be snoozy affairs, but last week at the annual media gathering wrangled by former Hearst Entertainment President Ray Joslin at Trinity College in New York, NBC Universal President Bob Wright and the person interviewing him—MSNBC host Tucker Carlson—veered into some interesting territory.

Waxing nostalgic for the days when networks played current events “down the middle,” Wright lamented the over-the-top tone that cable-news channels are increasingly embracing. And, of course, he laid responsibility for it all at the feet of Fox News Channel.

Given that Carlson, a conservative in good standing, was hired earlier this year by one of Wright’s own channels to host The Situation with Tucker Carlson—a move by the perennially struggling MSNBC that was seen as hoping to snag some of Fox’s reflected ratings glory—he might have been expected to quiz his boss a little more closely on this point.

But instead, Carlson made a suggestion: Why not start a channel that overtly caters to liberals? “There’s tons of liberals out there,” Carlson said.

Going after a lefty audience would be futile, Wright said. “For some strange, probably genetic, reasons”—we’re pretty sure that was a joke—”they don’t listen to a lot of radio and they don’t watch a lot of television.”

Another disincentive: Despite all the media attention given to cable-news programming—from Bill O’Reilly’s histrionics on Fox to Anderson Cooper’s exhibitionistic empathy at CNN—American viewers are not that interested. Wright pointed out that the cable-news networks combined draw fewer unique viewers all night long than a single half-hour of NBC Nightly News.

“You’d think it would be 25 million people. It’s smaller than that, it’s 5 million-6 million,” Wright said. “It’s not a very large group.”

A Mizrahi Monologue

Stopped in last week to see clothing designer Isaac Mizrahi, whose talk show on Style network premieres Dec. 5. When you visit the star of the 1995 documentary Unzipped and ex-host of an Oxygen reality-show/celebrity chatfest, just turn on the tape recorder:

“You know, it’s like people say, 'Oh, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, all these designers are trying to get into the entertainment industry,’ and I’m like, 'Excuse me? I have one word for you: Unzipped. I mean, what are you thinking? That was 10 years old, you know what I mean?’ So it’s like I don’t know what other designers are trying to get into other areas or other arenas, but it’s like, I get very bored of the status quo and I always, like, need to move on, I think, you know? And I think that’s what makes me a good fashion designer, but it also makes me, like, a little too fast with things, you know what I mean? It’s like, you know, I love this show? And to me it’s going really, really well? But for some reason, if it doesn’t work, someone will copy it somewhere and make a fortune.” Still unzipped.