When is cross promotion too much?

When is cross promotion too much?
I’ve often stated here that at some point in my 28 years in TV News, the business changed from gathering news to managing audience flow. As an old colleague once said, “Little did we know when we became a profit center that one day we’d have to play by the rules.”

That said, there’s a biting commentary in Newsday that I would put on the “must reading” list today. Verne Gay takes on NBC’s orgy of “The Donald” last week that culminated in a plethora of stories and interviews on every NBC News program leading up to and following the 2‑hour conclusion of “The Apprentice.”

Viewers may — or certainly should — begin to wonder about the financial tie-ins between NBC and every other entertainment-related story to air on both programs. That long Sarah Jones profile on “Today” last week? Surprise! She’s got a series coming up on NBC-owned Bravo next season. That interview with Rocco DiSpirito on Monday’s show? You guessed right! “The Restaurant” premiered that night. (“Today” typically, and very briefly, identifies the network tie-in.)

Upon the completion of the deal to buy Vivendi Universal next month, NBC News will face an avalanche of new promotional opportunities, which (NBC News president Neal) Shapiro admits “is something we’re going to need to deal with.” Stars from the Sci Fi Channel and USA Network as well as Universal movies would just love a sit-down with Katie. The message from coverage of “The Apprentice”: All they have to do is get in line.

Gay ends the piece with the note that “last week was a sad and sobering milestone for network news.” I don’t know about that, but I do appreciate that last week shined a light on the reality that has become network news. From a capitalist perspective, such behavior is the ultimate goal of pretending to be objective, is it not? I’m waiting for the day when guys like Zucker and Shapiro stop pretending that network news is anything other that what it has become — a way to advance the bottom line of media empires. I won’t be holding my breath.

But the real issue for me is whether local broadcast companies will continue to follow the same path. Why not? Programming tie-ins are commonplace on local news under the guise of covering “pop culture.” I once begged the folks at the Oprah show to let my reporter do a behind-the-scenes sweeps series. I actually got on my knees and begged! (it worked)

There’s an old saying that “truth will out.” I believe that. The longer the broadcast news business continues to cling to journalism’s artificial hegemony (objectivity), the more it will be manipulated by owners, and the closer we come to the outing of truth. That’s the silver lining in all this — dropping the self-deceit and bullshit about what it is that we do and reinventing ourselves for a better tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I genuinely weep for the countless good people who are caught in the mess that the news business has become.


  1. This is a crucial point, and one that is costing the networks audience share day-by-day. I haven’t owned a TV in years, and every time I’m exposed to one, even briefly, my resolve to never own one again solidifies. Case in point: I visited a home-bound friend a few weeks ago. The box was squawking about Donald Trump and “the apprentice.” Not surprising — but what DID surprise me was that it was a “news” show! We are at war, it’s an election year, the economy is in trouble, and the “news” shows are covering.…another TV show? This reminds me of the old cartoon about people watching the people on TV watch TV. What’s the point?

    The networks will never get MY pair of eyeballs back, and this blog entry illustrates one of the reasons why.

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