Thursday, April 7, 2011

On Reincarnation, Or, Was Glenn Beck Just Promoted?

So, the thing is, I’m not the one who tends to follow the herd.

If everyone’s backed up on the freeway, I’m the one who will look for the longer but less crowded country road. When everyone’s talking about whoever out-sang or out-danced or out-cake-bossed someone else, I’m the one with the blank face—and if there’s a room full of people line dancing, I’ll be the one over in the corner having a smoke and wondering what went wrong with y’all.

And that’s why, while everyone else is all excited about Glenn Beck’s imminent “disappearance” from the television firmament…I’m not so sure.

In fact, I can easily see a scenario that leads to a lot more Beck, and that’s what we’ll be talking about today.

“I’ve still got a lot to learn about Washington. Why, yesterday, I accidentally spent some of my own money.”

--Former Senator Fred Thompson, as retold by former Senator Bob Dole

OK, so you’re News Corp, and you’ve got a really popular character on your Fox News network—but the guy is a disaster from a profit-making point of view, because he’s driving away all those advertisers that you need to make the money thing work.

And that’s not all: some suggest he’s no friend of Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News…and in television (to paraphrase Tom Arnold), you can be hostile with your boss, or you can be unprofitable—but you can’t be both.

If that wasn’t bad enough, all his crazy talk is making it hard for Fox News to be a “real” news network, and that’s keeping them from getting the access they used to have when the last Administration was in town.

To make things even worse, there’s that Fox Business Channel, which draws an average audience that’s about 1 or 2 or 3% of what Beck draws to his Imaginarium every night.

And now the time has come To Do Something.

What is coming from here on out is entirely speculative, and I do not have the input of An Actual, No-Kidding, Source I Can’t Name, as I have had in some other stories recently—but if you had hired me, in my fake consulting capacity, To Do Something about this particular turd sandwich…I might just be able to make it work.

First things first: you separate Beck from the Fox News network (and, of course, Ailes), and that did take place Wednesday when Fox and Mercury Radio Arts (Beck’s production company) announced:

…that they will work together to develop and produce a variety of television projects for air on the FOX News Channel (FNC) as well as content for other platforms including FOX News’ digital properties. Glenn intends to transition off of his daily program, the third highest rated in all of cable news, later this year.

So that leaves you with a chance to begin “rehabilitating” Fox News—but it also leaves you with Beck producing the occasional “special” and producing lots of “premium” content for his website, which would make me want to try to “monetize” him a bit more; that brings me to my next move:

Why not turn the Fox Business Channel…into the Fox Opinion Channel?

That’s right: put Imus, Beck, O’Reilly, Hannity, Cavuto, Fox and Friends, Huckabee, Lou Dobbs, Sarah Palin, Stossel…the whole wacky crew…maybe even Donald Trump, after his “Presidential Campaign” peters out…all on the same channel, all day and all night, and take some of that “premium” website content and turn it into “filler” for the new venture (and while you’re at it, make similar deals for filler with the rest of the gang).

So what about the current Fox Business business?

If you take everything off of that channel and distill it out to its “essence”, there might be two or three hours a day of potentially interesting programming; alternatively you take Stuart Varney and Liz Claman and make them the Fox News “business team” who come on every hour during the trading day with a three-minute “market wrap”. You could fill out the coverage with one longer recap daily, either before opening or after closing.

Now you’re taking a big chance here, and that’s because the advertiser boycott that has been crippling Beck on Fox will almost certainly continue—but if Beck were to change his message slightly (more subtly racist, less apocalyptic), he could gain some of those advertisers back.

For Fox, there isn’t much to lose, since Beck’s departure should help Fox News Channel regain advertisers who avoided the whole Beck mess (Poli-Grip still wants to reach Conservatives, yes?), and the current level of profit at the current Fox Business Channel probably wouldn’t even buy a week’s worth of Starbuck’s for the Fox and Friends trio—and since all the assets required to make the change are already “owned” by News Corp, costs don’t really go up with the change as much as they just shift around; the exception being the big splashy ad campaign to make it all happen.

Now here’s the crazy part: Fox and Beck appear to have begun the “parting of the ways” today—but at the same time, Fox News also dispatched Senior Vice President of Production/Development Joel Cheatwood to the new venture, which could suggest that Beck really does have something up his sleeve…or that Cheatwood’s welcome was also worn out at Fox.

So is Beck gone, or is Beck about to reappear in a whole new form?

I’m not sure, but there is a place he could go, and even though it’s a risk, it’s not a huge one—and if you took All The Crazy and put it “over there” it would allow you to clean up your mess “over here”, just in time for the potentially hugely profitable 2012 “Citizens United” Presidential campaign—and since many of your “Fox Opinion Channel” 2012 advertisers will love Beck and the rest of the gang (Crossroads GPS and the Tea Party Nation, for example), the risk of an advertiser boycott “over there” will be minimized until November 2012 at least.

As I say, it’s all completely speculative, so you have to take this with a bag of road salt—but it’s also the kind of thing that makes perfect sense, and if you ask me, nothing is more logical than the self-anointed King of Conspiracy dramatically reappearing after creating one of his own.

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