Tube mavens tune in shared woes

Execs discuss the future of television

Media buyer John Muszynski has a message for TV execs: Ignore digital video recorders like TiVo at your own peril.

“We’re going to get kicked right in the ass, guys, if we don’t address it today,” said Muszynski, managing director of investment and operations at Starcom USA. “The problem will get much larger much faster.”

Muszynski was one of several execs — including Fox Networks topper Tony Vinciquerra, WB CEO Garth Ancier, Sony Pictures TV prexy Steve Mosko, Turner Entertainment prexy Mark Lazarus and attorney Ken Ziffren — brought onstage to debate the state of the TV industry Tuesday at a Hollywood Radio and TV Society luncheon.

While moderator Chris Matthews seemed more interested in talking about the news business, the execs on the dais offered up a real difference of opinion when it came to the impact of media consolidation.

Vinciquerra argued that by getting bigger, the congloms have been able to offer viewers a wider variety of viewing choices. Ancier and Ziffren countered that creative voices have suffered, as studios stick mostly to producing shows for their own networks.

“An A-level producer can make a deal anywhere, but B’s and C’s are disappearing,” Ziffren said.

Muszynski, meanwhile, said he was “frustrated” this spring when, despite all the posturing by advertisers that they wouldn’t go for CPM (cost per thousand) increases at the broadcast webs, they eventually relented.

“The fact of the matter (is) the money was there,” he said. “And there are certain advertisers who want to be on the networks.”

But, he added, as time passes and execs continue to get used to the idea of shifting more money to cable, “that will change.”

Discussing their gripes with Nielsen, Mosko admitted that execs are resigned to the system’s vagaries: “It’s all we have, and they run the show.”

And Vinciquerra, who said he believes consumers will finally start jumping en masse into high-definition TV this holiday season, remains frustrated over the lack of clarity from Washington regarding ownership regulation.

“We need the government to tell us what the rules of engagement are,” he said. “What can you do, and what not. It’s hard (not to know) for planning purposes.”

HRTS prexy Jordan Levin drew big guffaws when he kicked off the luncheon by poking fun at his recent “decision” to exit the WB. He climbed onstage with a fake sword in his back, remarking, “I have a chronic pain between my shoulder blades that just won’t go away.”

Levin also pointed out how several other HRTS presidents lost their day jobs during their tour of duty at the org, including former Warner Bros. TV prexy Tony Jonas.

“Warning: Never become the president of HRTS, unless you’re seeking unemployment,” he said.

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