Jewish World Review March 15, 2002 / 2 Nisan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | This is what happened. There was no doubt ABC was in trouble. The Nielsen numbers were lousy and there was a jihad between the entertainment and news departments.
Michael Eisner told his programming people they had to come up with one good idea if they ever hoped to stay in business.
The big shots nervously gathered to find a way to save the network. On one side of the table were the news people, who were told the entertainment people were going to chop Ted Koppel's head off and replace him with a puppet show or a rock band and male models.
No idea was too dumb. An entertainment vice president (everyone in television is a VP) said, "Who needs news? No one under 34 watches it."
"The people who tune in Ted Koppel," a news VP said, "are the educated and informed audience. They want to know what is happening in the world. Besides, we need news for prestige. The public must feel the airwaves belong to everyone."
"That's a bunch of sawdust," the entertainment side of the table said. "We own the airwaves and we can give them anything we want to. We're talking about advertising, and that's not free. Let me ask you a question. How many people over 34 can buy a BMW?"
"A lot more than you think. Except for the people who had their pensions wiped away by the Enron bankruptcy, the older generation can buy anything the 18- to 34-year-old crowd can."
"OK, so let's get down to it. We're talking Nielsen numbers. On a good night, what does Koppel draw if we're bombing the hell out of Afghanistan?"
"A four or a five."
"And how much does David Letterman draw?"
"Seven or eight million. That's not what you get with a Ted Koppel town hall in Iowa. It's too bad CBS kept Letterman."
Finally, a VP who had not said a thing spoke up. "Gentlemen, I think I have a compromise. We will have Ted Koppel introduce the 'Mickey Mouse Hour.'"
"What are you talking about?"
"I say we bring back the 'Mickey Mouse Club' at 11:30 every night. The Mouseketeers were the greatest thing on television. Of course, Koppel would have to wear Mickey Mouse ears. He could announce the news at the beginning of the show and then the rest would be Mickey and his family."
"Do you think Cubby and Karen would come back?" an entertainment programmer asked.
"They will if we pay them as much as we do Barbara Walters."
Another entertainment programmer said, "What a great idea. We'll not only have the 18 to 34s, but also the 5- to 18-year-old audience, which has money to burn."
"Do you think parents will let their kids stay up that late?"
"They will refuse to go to sleep. Mickey has that effect on people." He looked at the news side of the room. "What do you say? How do you news people feel about it?"
"How much time will Ted have to give the news?"
"We want five."
"We'll give him four."
At that moment Eisner, the head honcho, walked into the room. "What have you come up with?"
No one spoke, but they put on their Mickey Mouse hats and sang the Mouseketeers song. Eisner smiled, "I think my job has been saved."