Sarah Palin’s TV prospects

Is cable calling Alaska's former governor?

In the days since she announced her resignation as Alaska’s governor, Sarah Palin’s decision has remained a source of mystery, speculation and debate. But there’s little doubt that she’ll have a future in the cable news universe, if that’s what she desires.

Even before last year’s presidential election, TV producers and packagers speculated that, should she be freed from the constraints of elective office, she’d be a big “get” as the host of a Fox News show or even a daytime syndicated yakker. When she made her bombshell announcement on Friday, one theory was that she had been made an “offer she can’t refuse” from some TV network.

In a world where Rush Limbaugh is treated as the de facto head of the Republican Party, with tremendous sway over lawmakers given his talkradio perch, Palin could do a lot worse than establishing some kind of a TV or radio brand. Freed from the provincial politics (and investigations) that come with a statehouse job, she could wield more influence from a media platform.

Fox News could be the perfect match, as she has become such a partisan figure that she would not be under the constraints of “Q” scores, as a less well-known newcomer to TV would be. When Mike Huckabee dropped out of the presidential race, he landed an agent at CAA and then his own show on Fox News. The cabler’s Greta Van Susteren has close ties to Palin and has come to her defense in the media storm.

A Fox News spokeswoman said Sunday that the cabler “has not had any discussions with Palin.”

Palin would likely face more of an uphill climb in pursuing a daytime syndie yakker, as some have speculated. For one, syndie distribs are generally wary of highly politicized personalities — they don’t see much upside in promoting a talent who is automatically disliked by a big share of the audience for partisan reasons.

Even if a syndie distrib was willing to take a gamble on a Palin show, the marketplace timing is terrible, as local TV stations have been in a deep ad sales rut for months, which dampened the prospects this year for prospective syndie launches with no controversy attached.

As of yet, Palin’s only plans — at least those announced publicly — are her book, due in spring of next year; its arrival will surely see her making the rounds on the talkshow circuit.

Her announcement caught so many offguard that the initial reaction, over a holiday weekend, has been puzzlement more than anything else. But that sentiment is likely to give way to opportunity, particularly in the cable news realm where ratings are ever more driven by polarizing personalities.

Sam Haskell, former TV head of William Morris who now chairs the Miss America organization, said Palin should become an on-camera consultant for a high-profile Fox News show.

“After rebuilding her credibility, which has been hurt during the past year, she could easily get her own show,” he said. “I think she’s definitely a conservative celebrity, and articulate and engaging on camera, but she has some work to do on her image.”

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