Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brian Stelter to CNN?

Can't say I didn't see this coming to be honest but according to Joe Flint, CNN is in advanced talks with Brian Stelter to host "Reliable Sources". They won't be sharing him with the New York Times like they did with Howard Kurtz and the Washington Post/Daily Beast.

When Jeff Zucker was coming to CNN, it was made very clear from the beginning that Zucker is looking for reporters who dominate in niche fields and there's no one who represents that more than Mr. Stelter. The announcement could come as soon as this week according to Flint.

Stelter has made appearances on "New Day" and "CNN Newsroom" more often than not whenever big media stories are in the forefront of watercooler conversation. On Monday morning, Stelter appeared on "New Day" to analyze the "60 Minutes" apology on getting their Benghazi investigation wrong. Stelter made a stunning statement and said that this controversy could be worse for CBS News than Dan Rather's inaccurate story about George W. Bush's service in the military.

What to expect with this deal:
  • A micro-site centered around Stelter's take on the media similar to the new websites being started by Bill Simmons and Nate Silver on ESPN's portal OR a radical change of "Reliable Sources" blog.
  • Host, "Reliable Sources"
  • Weekly appearances on CNN's "New Day"   
Other possibilities:
  • HBO made for TV movie based on Stelter's book "Top of the Morning"
  • Weekly interview series with playmakers in the media with a similar format to Stelter's recent interview with Aziz Ansari at 92Y. 
  • Appearances on HLN's "Showbiz Tonight"
This move does raise questions about whether Stelter will cover cable news. Kurtz had no problem with covering CNN and it's rivals and he continues to cover cable news over on "MediaBuzz" on Fox News. Stelter, on the other hand, made a stance to not cover cable news while he serves as a guest anchor on "Reliable Sources". Does it compromise his job if he chooses to not cover cable news? I think so.

I think Mr. Stelter needs to also serve as an unofficial ombudsman for the network and not be afraid to call out and cover CNN extensively when needed just as Jon Stewart does on a consistent basis. Critics will perceive not covering cable news objectively as a loss of credibility. Zucker shouldn't hire a media critic if he's scared of getting criticized.

As of right now, Bloomberg and CNBC have the lead when it comes to covering the business of media on television but with this move, it's possible that CNN will take their lead away. Let's admit it, covering the business of media is not a ratings powerhouse BUT if you can connect the business of media to how it affects the consumer in an interesting way then I think the ratings will be higher than expected.

EXAMPLE: CNN could do a whole hour panel discussion on sports TV rights. How do you make it interesting? Help consumers understand how it affects their cable bills as well as who benefits the most and who benefits the least. 

In Britain, there is a lot of ire because Champions League rights recently were sold to a cable operator who will move games away from over-the-air television. The BBC covered this story and was able to connect to the consumer in a relevant way by discussing how this move will make a national tradition of watching soccer exclusively accessible to those who can afford it as well as how this could decrease soccer's influence in the next generation. It's an example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poor and it goes politically into class warfare.

UPDATE: KA-BOOM!!!! According to Dylan Byers of Politico: 

CNN has hired Brian Stelter, the New York Times media reporter, to serve as the new host of "Reliable Sources" its Sunday media program, and as a full-time media reporter on its digital side, POLITICO has learned.

ANOTHER UPDATE - What are the repercussions of this deal? 

Stelter replacement: I'm not sure how long their deals are or how much they get paid currently but contracts are made to be broken and both of Capital New York's big media reporters, Joe Pompeo and Alex Weprin are fair play. They could also go back to where they came from and poach someone from TVNewser like Chris Ariens. 

How does NYT move forward: Despite the fact that NYT continues to increase it's output of high quality video online, there's nothing better than the spectacle of television for many writers who aren't used to stardom through face recognition. It's the reason Stelter, Silver, Zeleny, Saulny, Beck, Battista all left. In my opinion, NYT needs to find networks to team up with to give their writers a place to be on television. 

On the sports side, there's plenty of sports nets available that need content and could serve as a hub for writers to break news and analyze events. On the news side, there's not as many choices but it shouldn't be a predicament which prevents moving into television production. Each writer is an individual case. If you start a production company which pitches/sells shows featuring writers to many different networks then you end up owning, profiting from the show; you make the writer happy and you're spreading the wealth of your empire and influence throughout various networks.

Another option would be to take over primetime for either CNBC or Bloomberg which is 100% lackluster and failing for the most part. During the primetime block, mix up a potpourri of shows from different sections of the paper featuring star writers. It'll be tough to compete with established cable news stars but it'll give the newspaper an extra dimension which it doesn't have right now.  

When it comes to leaving NYT for an online startup/big website, there's nothing NYT can really do about that. A lot of times people make that move because they want something new to challenge them and they've reached their pinnacle at the newspaper of record. With that being said though, if you can fix the TV problem, then do it at all costs necessary.

Yahoo has helped diversify the role of it's journalists by giving them opportunities to talk sports on NBCSN while also giving them an opportunity to be featured on ABC News' programming. In order for television to no longer be a problem, NYT has to find similar arrangements which go even further than what Yahoo is doing by giving their writers their own shows. You never know, it just might end up being TV magic (see: PTI on ESPN).

Questions arise - Could all these people be leaving because they know something that we don't? Is the New York Times about to face major cuts? Are they about to get sold in a surprise move similar to the WaPo sale over the summer and if so, is the new owner advocating for less spending? Why has it seemed so easy for vets of the paper to simply move on? 

How does NYT rebound? If they have the money to, I would throw around a lot of money to sign Kara Swisher and Walt Mossburg, the two biggest blogging free-agents in the game right now. Try to work something out which is similar to the deal Andrew Ross Sorkin has with the NYT and possibly even try to get an assist from Sorkin's other employer CNBC for a possibly weekly or daily tech show/live broadcasted tech events.

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