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The Men Behind the Screens

These TV Executives Show that Not All Cigar-Smoking media Moguls Are in Film
Susan Karlin
From the Print Edition:
Chuck Norris, Jul/Aug 98

Hollywood and cigars. It's a natural pairing: the good life with a little roguishness thrown in. But it's always the movie moguls that people envision with smokes jutting from their mouths. Truth is, television has sprouted its own share of cigar-chomping tycoons as the industry has become a multibillion-dollar global business that's as volatile and unpredictable as film.

Competition for network time slots is fierce--generated more and more by producer track records, relationships and scheduling needs than program content. New shows get only a few airings to prove themselves before they're yanked for backup material. Actors and executives get only a couple of development seasons to hit it big before they're replaced. Meanwhile, rising actor and production costs, and increasing political pressure on content, make program financing riskier.

What's more, the terrain is changing. No longer just a three-network landscape, the proliferation of programming outlets in cable and satellite TV has network and studio chiefs and producers scrambling to create shows that cut through the noise and hone networks into identifiable brands and overseas franchises.

Cigar Aficionado talked to some of TV's driving forces about their take on the industry--and their favorite smokes.

DOUG McCORMICK
Ladies' Man
Doug McCormick spends his days surrounded by women.

As president and chief executive officer of Lifetime Entertainment Services, which includes Lifetime Television and the new Lifetime Movie Network, McCormick heads a primarily female team creating programs for a primarily female audience. "When people say, 'What's a man doing running Lifetime?' I answer, 'Does that mean a 10-year-old should be running Nickelodeon?' Actually, it's the second best job I've had in my life," McCormick says. "The best was a high school job delivering flowers to people. You've never seen so many smiles on so many faces. Of course, this is a better career move."

Lifetime's focus is representative of how television channels, particularly cable, are branding themselves and targeting specific audiences to cut through the explosion of programming outlets and grab viewers.

"The need for branding came about with the proliferation of satellite communications," says McCormick. "There was no need for the broadcast networks to brand themselves in the 1950s, because you were channel 2, 4 or 7 and had a captive audience. The ability to program to niche markets has destabilized the broadcast networks by creating a democracy of choice. You now have a whole nation of program directors with remote controls in their hands.

"With the proliferation of viewing choices, television started to resemble radio," he adds. "One station provides news; another, soft rock; a third is all-sports. These stations had to identify themselves. Television was never forced to do that until satellites came in and made 50, 60 channels available."

With the advent of the Internet and its subsequent impact, McCormick thinks he may have an advantage with a mostly female staff. "Business is moving more towards a supportive type of partnering environment. At the core of the Internet is a sharing of information. That opens up some great doors for women, because they have natural instincts on that. I find women to be far more supportive in meetings than men," he says. "I've seen situations where women will say, 'I can do this,' and another will say, 'I have someone who can help you on that.' Guys will say, 'You do your thing and I'll do mine. And let's see if you can do better.' [With women,] it's more communal than competitive."


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