Asking the TV biz’s burning questions for 2011

Jeff Zucker and Jeff Gaspin bid adieu to NBC U while Bob Greenblatt made plans to move in. Simon Cowell bowed out of “American Idol.” ABC said goodbye to “Lost” and Steve McPherson. Conan O’Brien said so long to broadcast TV entirely, and Oprah Winfrey is about to join him.

Those and many other tumultuous events this year were just the warmup for what promises to be a year of change and realignment for the TV biz in 2011.

CNN is looking for new life in primetime after Larry King. Pay cablers are nervously eyeing their subscriber churn numbers as Netflix’s aud and programming menu continues to grow.

The broadcast nets are grappling with the new-fangled problem of measuring viewing dispersed among many screens, including the oh-so-portable iPad. But even more fundamentally, there’s the age-old problem of coming with new programs that viewers want to watch — on any screen.

All of the comings and goings, new beginnings and new technologies are fueling a host of burning questions. Among them:

What’s the first order of business once the Comcast-NBC Universal merger is a done deal?

Will viewers embrace the new Cowell-free “American Idol”? And will Cowell’s “The X Factor” conquer the U.S.?

Will Oprah’s minions flock to her new cable network? And who benefits most from the Oprah void in daytime syndication?

Can CNN regain any mojo, and is Piers Morgan the new king?

Will the networks regain their programming mojo in time for fall 2011?

Among the other questions to look out for in 2011: Who might replace CW’s Dawn Ostroff, who’s expected to exit the young femme-centric network at the end of this season?

Meanwhile, with David Letterman’s CBS deal set to expire in 2012, speculation over his future may start to heat up.

The Eye will also have to come to terms shortly with Katie Couric, whose contract to anchor the “CBS Evening News” expires in 2011. Couric is expected to remain, but perhaps with a pay cut.

Over at NBC, “Today” show anchors Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira’s contracts also expire in 2011.

But all of these pale in comparison to the great unknown out there — how viewers might continue to embrace services like Hulu, Netflix and Google TV, and perhaps turn cord-cutting and a la carte TV viewing into a bonafide threat.

Read the full story here.


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