The Wire: Hugging Engineers, Stalking Williams And Other Hall of Fame Moments
by Kent Gibbons , 10/26/2009 2:00:00 AM
The Wire heard lots of funny and pithy lines last week between Tuesday night's Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame and Wednesday's On Screen Media Summit in New York. Here are some:
The timeliest — even though it was uttered around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday by the 12th and final inductee into the B&C Hall — came from NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker.
B&CHallZucker“I only have a few prepared remarks,” he said, shuffling a piece of paper.
“I want to thank Brian Roberts for everything he's done for my career,” he said. “Oh I'm sorry, these are the remarks for next month's dinner. Sorry about that.” He also said he realized some people might be thinking he got inducted just in time: next year he might not even be in broadcasting and cable. (He was alluding to Roberts' Comcast negotiating to buy control of NBCU.)
Entertainment Tonight executive producer Linda Bell Blue said her career had taken her into a cell in San Quentin Prison with Charles Manson and to the Oscars, in the same row as Tom Cruise. “I will tell you, Charlie was the better talker,” she said.
Brian Williams, the NBC anchor, emceed the Hall dinner's latter portion, after his nightly newscast. He engaged in much banter with honorees, especially boss Zucker and Connecticut neighbor George Bodenheimer, the ESPN president there to help induct Monday Night Football.
B&CHallFame400.jpgWilliams joked that Bodenheimer and his wife enjoy walking around their neighborhood on weekends, including past the Williams home, and that in fact Williams' security guards have been told to politely but firmly remind them to keep walking.Bodenheimer shot back that they were even more confused than they appeared: “We thought that was Charles Gibson's home,” he quipped. “We won't be back this weekend.”
Johnathan Rodgers, the CEO of TV One and a longtime CBS News executive, came up for his Hall speech and said: “Brian, if I'd have known you had this much personality, you'd still be the 6 o'clock anchor at Channel 2.”
Williams had the last word in that exchange. He pointed out his last gig at WCBS Channel 2 in New York actually was anchoring the noon newscast, “about six hours ahead of the 6 o'clock newscast — which I wanted — thanks to the head of the owned and operated stations [fake sneeze], Johnathan Rodgers. But that was years ago.”
Belo Corp. senior adviser Jack Sander had a couple of jokes punctuated with a fling of a note card. When Cox Communications president Pat Esser came up for his induction, he first stopped, bent down to retrieve the cards and said: “I'm just a cable guy cleaning up behind a broadcaster.”
“I mean that in a good spirit,” Esser said.
Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos gave a thank you in Spanish to “some of the people who are working here” at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel dinner. “Maybe you don't realize, but most of the people that are making this possible are immigrants, just like me,” he said. Ramos began his news career in Mexico but left when a report of his was spiked by censors.
Bob Ross, senior vice president of East Coast Operations at CBS, delivered “a simple message: It's all about the engine room, or, have you hugged your chief engineer today?”
They're the folks that work downstairs, who always have a flashlight and screwdriver, said Ross. “Those people are back working tonight, while you're here enjoying the fact that you know you're not off the air.”
B&CHallFameBrianWilliams.jpgAt a TV One table, EVP of operations Jay Schneider got a hug from Towanna Mitchell, Rodgers' executive assistant, soon after Ross's directive.
Tony Vinciquerra, the chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group, spent several years in TV-station management at Hearst-Argyle and CBS before joining the News Corp. fold in 2001.
“By the way,” he said, “Bob Ross was my chief engineer once, and I think I did give him a hug once or twice. Maybe a kiss even.”
Vinciquerra — after wondering aloud if the B&C Hall would be the first entity to ever spell his name right on a plaque — also disclosed that he and his wife, Toni Knight, recently learned they are expecting a son next year, joining a Vinciquerra team that already includes two daughters.
“I'll be going to baseball games on a walker,” he said.
Mazel tov, Tony V.
On Wednesday, The Wire's coveted Canadian Candor Award (MSO category) went to David Purdy, senior vice president and general manager at Rogers Communications. Not many cable folks at the B&C/Multichannel News On Screen Media Summit had heard him speak before, and he impressed them in panel duty.
Discussing possible pricing schemes for a “TV everywhere” product, he said that rather than charge a fee per view, it makes more sense to use cable's “price leverage in the marketplace.” He made a reference to cigarettes, coffee and TV and said channel launches typically don't come as a result of customers demanding more video product. “What we've done is, we've rolled it out, got them used to it, got them hooked on it and then we've raised rates.”
Purdy also pointed out: “One of the great undervalued things on any cable company's books is inertia. Customers' viewing migrates long before their dollars migrate.”
Words of wisdom from north of the border.