Tuesday, September 7th, 1999
Poor Bryant Gumbel. Most of the hoorah surrounding the choice for his co-anchor on CBS’s revamped and rechristened The Early Show was overshadowed Tuesday by the announcement that uneven media behemoth Viacom would buy CBS, a deal worth something like 37 billion dollars. Reuters called it "the largest media marriage ever," although the company that will emerge will be just a tad smaller than Time Warner.
Chairing the merged company (to be calledViacom) will be quirky CEO Sumner Redstone, a man who could give Ted Turner lessons on odd gazillionaire behavior. President and Chief Operating Officer will be CBS’s current head, the quirky Mel Karmazin.
People you’ve probably never heard of.
What does this mean to you, the home viewer/listener/renter? Not a heck of a lot, except that the same people that own CBS will also have MTV, Nickelodeon, Showtime, The Nashville Network, Paramount, Star Trek, UPN (maybe), the syndication company that owns Wheel of Fortune, Oprah, and Jeopardy, Howard Stern, Blockbuster Video, and a big scary pile of TV and radio stations in their back pocket.
More choices? More options? Don’t count on it. It all means a staggering amount of your day to day media intake is controlled or will be controlled by Viacom, The Walt Disney Company, and Time Warner. That would be Redstone and Karmazin, Michael Eisner, and the lopsided tag team of Gerald Levin and Ted Turner. Quirksters all.
So where does that leave Fox or GE/NBCand for that matter, Microsoft? AT&T?
Well, maybe they need to get a deal of their own. "Our union will be king," Sumner Redstone said in a bombastic statement Tuesday. (Oooh! King of All Unions!) "We will be global leaders in every facet of the media and entertainment industry."
As the dust settles on all of that royal stock swapping, we’re left with the more modest media news of the week, like the arrival of Later Today on NBC (prediction: in 5 years, Today will run from 6 am until 6 pm, 7 days a week.) and WXIA’s local offering, the oft-revamped Peachtree Morning, now originating from someplace off of Centennial Park (perhaps to keep a lookout for Eric Rudolph.) On the premiere of the former, we watched a few minutes of Florence Henderson talking really bad French with some chef before we were forced to retreat in pain. "They seem to be trying really really hard," my wife observed.
And then Later than Later, Paul Ossman and Carmen Burns (no relation) looked extremely uncomfortable semi-perched on stools, talking with a forgettable twentysomething actor who joined the cast of one of NBC’s teen comedies. Which reminds me: last week in the Sunday New York Times, Lynn Hirschberg profiled teen actors who are washed up by 25 in a piece called "Teenseltown-Desperate to Seem 16" Sad, true, and an engaging read, on the web for now at http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home/19990905mag-teenseltown.html.
And so, back to Bryant, standing there wondering why the hoopla train went a ways past him, down the track, before backing up. They found Gumbel’s partner (in a search codenamed inside CBS "Operation Glass Slipper") in the person of Jane Clayson, currently at ABC. She’s (most recently) from Salt Lake City. Solet the games begin.