As someone who spends a lot of time trying to identify media trends, I generally recognize a false — as in “Oh look, three things! Trend!” — conflation of events when I see one.
The prize for that today goes to the Wall Street Journal, which took the departures of NBC U’s Jeff Zucker, CNN’s Jon Klein and ABC News’ David Westin and conflated them into a larger story about the state of the TV business.
Only these events have little or nothing in common, other than the happenstance that Klein and Zucker’s departures were both announced on a Friday to mitigate the PR damage, as I noted last week. And the reasons behind their exits — poor primetime ratings, and (in Zucker’s case) new management wanting its own team — are as old as the media hills, hardly a reflection of the evolving state of the TV biz.
“Television networks, struggling with big shifts in audience viewing
habits, are plotting new ideas to remake their businesses, starting with
who’s in the corner offices,” the story began.
Really? CNN replaced Klein with a veteran of the company who had been at Headline News. Zucker will pass the baton to Steve Burke, an industry insider with plenty of network experience from his ABC/Disney days. And Westin’s leave-taking represents a different set of circumstances than the first two, having fought a longtime battle over the allocation of resources at ABC News with his bosses at Disney.
Far from looking outside the usual occupants of the “corner office,” studios and networks are still hoping that those who have spent time in the business can chart its future.
This isn’t meant to pick on the Journal, but merely to point out how easy (and often lazy) it is to link unrelated events in the pursuit of a bigger picture. While it might look good on paper, such fuzzy connections do more to cloud our understanding of what’s going on in a fast-changing industry than to enhance it.