Time Warner trumpets ‘NewsStand’

Ad agency helps develop 'CNN & E.W.'

It’s never wrong to celebrate the client, and Lord knows there was plenty of that going on last week when Time Warner introduced its “NewsStand” lineup for three new CNN cable shows next month. (Daily Variety May 20.)

But there are limits, and they may have been breached last week when the folks behind “NewsStand: CNN & Entertainment Weekly” stopped just short of crediting ad agency Ogilvy & Mather and three of its clients as the show’s creators.

“With the agency,” gushed Larry Goodman, president of news sales and marketing for Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc., “we were able to develop a multimedia platform, involving both television and the Internet, and potentially an international TV component as well.”

If so, Ogilvy and the sponsors it’s bringing to “NewsStand” — namely, American Express, IBM and U.S. Satellite Broadcasting — helped TBS answer a question that Time Warner should have been grappling with all along: how to get back into the entertainment news business after being booted by Comcast from the cable consortium behind E!

Sports, news and entertainment are the three killer apps of cable, but, in this case, two out of three ain’t good. And it wasn’t getting any better, either, given Disney’s recently obtained rights to manage E!

In fact, when these rights are paired with past-and-future “Oscar” broadcasts from Disney-owned ABC, Time Warner seems far behind indeed. “Here they have no vertical channel in entertainment,” volunteered one television consultant, “whereas Disney’s already in position to integrate ABC’s entertainment coverage with E!”

That’s consultant-speak for moving the Oscars to a weekend night, instead of a school night, then hyping the worldwide broadcast to Super Bowl extremes. It also means pre-game shows, post-mortems and other milking methods not unfamiliar to football fans. And, finally, it means sending viewers still not sated with ABC’s entertainment coverage on their merry way to E!

Expect other entertainment galas to be given the same ABC-E! treatment — provided they’re worthy, of course — thus furthering Disney’s entertainment lead.

As for “CNN & Entertainment Weekly,” Peter Chrisanthopoulos, Ogilvy & Mather’s president of broadcast and programming, promised the one-hour-a-week broadcast would differentiate itself from all entertainment offerings currently available. “There isn’t a show out there that covers the business side of entertaining,” he said after confirming his participation in the “brainstorming sessions” behind the “NewsStand” concept.

Added Wilma Epstein, Ogilvy’s North American director for media development and strategy, “We saw Entertainment Weekly as the one magazine that dealt with entertainment in all its varied forms. And CNN was the one channel that could deliver a legitimate, journalistic and differentiated program.”

What went without saying, of course, was “NewsStand” representing Time Warner’s last chance to keep any semblance of an entertainment news franchise from scurrying away on mouse-like feet.