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Find The Boots

Rantings from a few corporate types about life, technology, travel, guns, politics, and everything good in the world.

Save Jericho: Corporate Life

Monday, June 04, 2007

I started off this series of articles by saying that CBS was a huge corporation and that people shouldn't expect them to do anything quickly. A two week decision cycle is pretty fast for a company of that size.

I also pointed out that individuals and small groups can do things fairly quickly, but once a consensus across many groups is required things slow down. We're seeing exactly that with the way CBS is handling the "Save Jericho" movement.

A few things come to mind. The first was the article in the WSJ:
“It’s unbelievable the number of emails sent to us,” Mr. Moonves said, saying it had reached a level not seen since he canceled the religious themed “Touched By An Angel” after 13 seasons. “Unfortunately because the audience of [Jericho] is very tech savvy they learned to get around the blocking” and have flooded his inbox. (“Yeah, why listen to the viewers,” quipped Mr. Mossberg.) Fans have also protested by sending thousands of pounds of nuts to CBS headquarters, a reference to a scene in the show’s finale. “We feel bad we have canceled the show,” Mr. Moonves said. “Obviously I love to see the passion. I wish we had seen some of that passion as the ratings were going down in the last two months.”
A lot of people were offended by the arrogance of that interview. I don't understand why. Les Moonves is a CEO of a large corporation. He makes $28M/year. If you haven't worked with people like this, you just don't realize how different their day is from yours. To quote the immortal words of Gordon Gecko in Wall Street:
If you're not inside, you are outside, OK? I'm not talking about some $400,000-a-year Wall Street stiff...flying first class and being comfortable. I'm talking about liquid. Rich enough to have your own jet. Rich enough not to waste time. Fifty, a hundred million dollars, Buddy. A player...
I'm not making some populist class envy point here, I'm just trying to show that Les doesn't approach things the way most people do. I'll bet Les doesn't read his own email -- he has other people to do that. They decide what's important, and if they need his input they talk to him at a scheduled time and then respond. Les hasn't stood in the checkout line of a hotel in years. He doesn't take cabs. He has no idea where his dry cleaning is done. And he sure as heck doesn't look into the details of viewer ship for a single show by episode. He has hundreds of people that do that type of analysis. His job is to set the vision, be the chief communicator to the outside world, and make sure he surrounds himself with people that can execute. He'd be a very poor CEO if he was wrapped around the axle in the details of Jericho's Nielson numbers of online vs normal viewing. In fact, I'll bet that data integration issues kept them from even having that comparison to look at when they He's supposed to have people that do that for him. He wouldn't have gotten involved until it became a problem, and then some people would start having career limiting experiences.

The next incident was the song that Gil Schwartz, the Executive VP of Corporate communications sang at the affiliate conference:
or the hurting fans of the canceled "Jericho," Mr. Schwartz had this ditty (to the tune of "I'm Sorry"):

"We're sorry, oh oh ... that we canceled ... Jericho!/You've sent us millions of nuts, it's really a pain in our butts/But it would have been better if you got together/Before the big upfronts in May/When development season gave reason to send you away/ And made you as righteously pissed off as you are today."
This illustrates the fact that people often go off on their own and do things that other members of the corporate team have no idea is going to happen. I'm sure he didn't run that little ditty past Chris Ender and Nina Tassler, whose lives were not made easier by that levity.

I remember when I was working on a very large government contract back in the mid-1990s. I had several project managers reporting to me. I was out on the west coast for some meetings. It was going about as smooth as any government contract, which is to say like a ride down an Alabama dirt road at 80 mph. As I got back to my hotel room and collapsed on the bed I flicked on the TV. The local news was on. And there was the smiling face of one of my project managers talking to a reporter telling them yes indeed there were major problems with the project. No, he didn't tell me that was going to happen. Stuff happens. People make off the cuff remarks without thinking about it. And thus we get songs at conferences that just rile up the fans a little more.

The last incident was reported in one of the newsletters from the Jericho movement this morning. According to the newsletter:
Some (most) of the "leaders" on the board have not been able to log into the CBS Boards. Their ID's have been deleted. The most interesting was ShaunVegas (shaunomac blog talk radio). As you know for the past 4-6 evenings, cast members, producers and writers have been calling in to take FAN phone calls.
I haven't been able to verify this other than to suspect from a search on messages from ShaunVegas that he's been deleted. And the only phone numbers that are showing up in people's sigs are formatted differently than standard.

I've been wondering when CBS would do something about the Jericho message board. The movement is starting its fourth week now, so even the giant of CBS has had some time to put together a strategy and make a few moves. If it's true, this is the first aggressive thing they've done to try to diffuse the movement. Instead of just shutting down the board and forcing everyone to move to somewhere out of their control, they're trying to diffuse the movement from the board. The movement would be well served to pick a new place to communicate instead of letting CBS meddle with them.

This wasn't some evil plan hatched in a secret meeting of the board of directors. More likely, some mid-level technical guy was told to cut back on the phone calls and emails going to the executives, and his solution was to delete the phone numbers and ban a few people. I'm sure this strategy would be a surprise to the higher ups. But the movement can use this to motivate the troops, so once again trying to control the monster may have backfired.

There's a hot rumor floating around that CBS is "days away" from making a major announcement about the future of the show. It's reasonable that something could happen -- they've had almost a month to come up with an action -- but I think it's to soon to expect anything major. They might announce plans to do a movie, but they won't have anything set in stone. At this point it looks like CBS is just playing to diffuse the harassment and get some positive PR out of the fan movement.

The difficulty for the movement with the movie approach is that if the fans campaign against it they look unreasonable. CBS will power up its massive PR machine and talk about how great the fan movement was and how they're listening and producing a movie or mini-series. That could do a lot to take away their thunder and limit their ability to recruit new members. It's hard to mobilize against a common enemy when the enemy appears to be reasonable to outsiders.

So the exciting and interesting events are still all on the fans side. CBS is lumbering along like a mega corporation, which is entirely predictable and expected. How the fans respond to all of this will be interesting to watch. They certainly have plenty to get riled up about.

To paraphrase Sun Tzu: If your enemy is strong in the mail room and loading dock, you must attack him where he is weak -- on the internet!

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20 Comments:

  • At 12:37 PM, Blogger Rob said…

    I love this blog! Great article as always...keep up the good work! :)

     
  • At 12:42 PM, Blogger Donna said…

    Another interesting piece. Thanks for continuing your commentary. And just so the readers know, there is a fallback site just in case CBS is truly starting to undermine the boards (and I guess it's not really undermining since they own them...). Like you, I am surprised that they left them up this long, especially since all the advertising appears to be in-house now for CBS shows. No more money from ads may equal no more Jericho board.

     
  • At 12:47 PM, Blogger bgingras said…

    Thanks for another good piece of writing.

    I agree that CBS is using the board to help keep things under control, but it's like trying to herd cats for CBS...there are to many of us, and not enough Tech guys to keep things up. We will always find ways around the filters...to many techies in this movement as well.

    We do have a fall back message board www.jerichorallypoint.com...the CBS board is where most people know to go as the news still gets out there.

     
  • At 12:57 PM, Blogger Cindy said…

    CBS does not have control of the Save Jericho movement and there are multiple sites we can use to continue the good fight. We have said all along that a movie was unacceptable, only a seconed season will do. There is too much story to Jericho left for anything but a full season, which I am confident will lead to many more seasons. Jericho is a fantastic show and deserves to go forward.

     
  • At 1:08 PM, Blogger mpbnice said…

    Where were we in May? We were watching via TV, the internet and prerecorded media, in spite of the fact that CBS put the program on a 10 week hiatus and then ran it against American Idol. I don't see why it's so difficult for CBS to understand.

    And a made for TV movie would not suffice...

     
  • At 1:29 PM, Blogger rj261 said…

    Thanks for an excellent article yet again.
    While I agree Mr. Moonves does have "people" to do things, there has obviously been enough noise made by us as fans that he has been made aware of what's going on. Which says something about our movement in and of itself.
    The PR machine of CBS is impressive, but we are automatically going to be David going up against the Goliath that is CBS, which can only help us and harm CBS if they try to force the solution of a 2 hour movie. And people will almost always root for the underdog-it's human nature.

     
  • At 1:53 PM, Blogger SaveJericho said…

    Another great post! Thank you!

     
  • At 2:22 PM, Blogger Sstang1 said…

    CBS has certainly come across as pretty arrogant during this fight to save Jericho. I think they have done alot of damage to their rep of "CBS Cares". Renewing Jericho for a second season would go a long way to healing the wounds of loyal viewers.

    Save Jericho !!

    CBS - Only Season 2 Will Do !!

     
  • At 2:34 PM, Blogger kystorms said…

    Great article as usual, riled me a bit more then the others and here is why

    First I have to sit and watch as Mr Moonves makes the comments he did, and my reasons for being insulted were that he actually thought that anyone on the forums would not be the type to read or frequent such places on the web, so he thought he was safe from being found out * if he truly thought about those comments at all*
    Now I have to hear that Gil Swartz, VP of Corporate Communications ( what, has no one told the man what that word means yet?) acts like a five year old in the playyard and sings songs of meanness to us? Does this man know how insulting he has been to us? to every viewer out there? Blatant slap in the face of every viewer in my mind, and lets not forget one important thing, I the viewer pay your check MR SWARTZ! He may not get that yet, but its going to hit home and soon.
    How much more will CBS do and say? I think someone had better sit that man down and have him work on his People Skills, How to Win Friends and Influence People, its a class .... take it.
    thank you for letting me post this Rich.

     
  • At 2:40 PM, Blogger bluesapphire7788 said…

    Once again, boondoggie rains pearls of wisdom on the Jericho Fans!!! We love it! Thank you!

     
  • At 2:59 PM, Blogger Trevor said…

    OOOOOH, just another little tidbit of info which is flying around the CBS boards now. You cannot use the word 'Youtube' in a message, it has been banned.

    Someone is actually waiting on the Google Partner Manager's phone call right now to let them know that one of their partners is actually denying consumers the right to go to their pages.

    Partnerships are fun, when both sides allow the other to be accessed.

     
  • At 3:08 PM, Blogger borregopass said…

    First, unlike Donna most of the ads I have seen are not in house CBS ads. They are selling ads left, right and center. In some cases there is some symbiotic relationship, most notably the Verizon and KMart ads, but with the exception of the pitiful attempt to shore up Katie Couric, the ads are being purchased.

    Secondly, kystorms, the viewers don't pay Mr. Swartz's check the advertisers do. One of our biggest stumbling blocks in the current battle to renew Jericho isn't that the overall numbers were too low, but that the demographic numbers were too low. Advertisers were going to be less interested in the show and pay less money for the show then they would for a show with weaker overall numbers but higher demographic numbers.

    We are not just battling the outdated nielsen ratings system, we are battling the outdated notion that 25 year olds are better advertising targets then 50 year olds. (Why advertisers have not gotten that with the possible exception of liquor choices 50 years old have the same brand loyalty as 25 year olds, and have for over a decade, I will never know. Having been raised with television the entire under 60 population is different then the original basis for this model, but that is a rant for another day.)

    Either way I wish it were true that viewers paid the salary of the various executives. We would get a lot more respect. No one, including Moonves, would be repeating that ridiculous assertion that average viewers were supposed to know that CBS didn't realize that a large portion of their audience for Jericho were not watching it at a home with a nielsen box within 24 hours of air time.

     
  • At 4:05 PM, Blogger Tom Mosier (falconr10) said…

    Boondoggie, here I am again, grateful for your coverage, advice, and insights. Personally, I was heartened when CBS started to ban the "leaders" (as the mid-level tech guy perceives them, anyway), and delete their phone numbers from the CBS boards - because, as you stated, it just adds a little more fuel to the fire, and heaps a few more hot coals of embarassment upon the heads of the CBS suits.

    Forget the expected lumbering, plodding, and inertia on the parts of CBS - while they ponder a course, the only "activity" that the world sees (and much of the world is at least watching, by now), is petty, low-class, thinly-veiled bullying tactics....Les' unfortunate quips, mean-spirited ditties, and attempts to limit free speech, and protest, on their own boards. Maybe not a PR debacle, quite yet....but methinks that we are getting there. And let's not forget Nina's and Kelly's early - on hate mail towards the fans....people (including media people) might be beginning to wonder what CBS is afraid of.....and why they can't at least put a better public face on their handling of the disappointed fans. Sure, Les has underlings to handle annoying little "situations" like the Monster.....but, one may query, "do they all have to be insensitive, condescending, cads?"

    And all of this from CBS - the "network that cares?"

    I'm feeling good, Boondoggie, that the outcome is a fait accompli. CBS may offer a mini-series, or a movie.....but I believe (that for perhaps the only time), you are wrong, as far as the response to their offer, at large. The monster has spoken - NOTHING less than a season 2 will do. CBS making am unsatisfactory counter proposal will be merely the latest slap in the face to the faithful. Time is on the movements side - unless the heretofore clue-LES suits have figured out a secret way, to unring the bell.

     
  • At 4:06 PM, Blogger Tom Mosier (falconr10) said…

    Boondoggie, here I am again, grateful for your coverage, advice, and insights. Personally, I was heartened when CBS started to ban the "leaders" (as the mid-level tech guy perceives them, anyway), and delete their phone numbers from the CBS boards - because, as you stated, it just adds a little more fuel to the fire, and heaps a few more hot coals of embarassment upon the heads of the CBS suits.

    Forget the expected lumbering, plodding, and inertia on the parts of CBS - while they ponder a course, the only "activity" that the world sees (and much of the world is at least watching, by now), is petty, low-class, thinly-veiled bullying tactics....Les' unfortunate quips, mean-spirited ditties, and attempts to limit free speech, and protest, on their own boards. Maybe not a PR debacle, quite yet....but methinks that we are getting there. And let's not forget Nina's and Kelly's early - on hate mail towards the fans....people (including media people) might be beginning to wonder what CBS is afraid of.....and why they can't at least put a better public face on their handling of the disappointed fans. Sure, Les has underlings to handle annoying little "situations" like the Monster.....but, one may query, "do they all have to be insensitive, condescending, cads?"

    And all of this from CBS - the "network that cares?"

    I'm feeling good, Boondoggie, that the outcome is a fait accompli. CBS may offer a mini-series, or a movie.....but I believe (that for perhaps the only time), you are wrong, as far as the response to their offer, at large. The monster has spoken - NOTHING less than a season 2 will do. CBS making am unsatisfactory counter proposal will be merely the latest slap in the face to the faithful. Time is on the movements side - unless the heretofore clue-LES suits have figured out a secret way, to unring the bell.

     
  • At 4:07 PM, Blogger Tom Mosier (falconr10) said…

    Sorry for the duplicate post, Boondoggie - this sllep deprivation thingie may be finally showing. ; )

     
  • At 4:44 PM, Blogger PlatPat said…

    It is my understanding that advertisers buy chunks of time, but have no say as to which show their ads are aired during. But still, they should be interested that viewers are being driven away in the millions!

    Can't agree more with borregopass re: demographics!! Last time I looked at my bank account, I was a consumer. Furthermore -- this is me using the computer! Not every 56 y.o. is Your Grandmother, Mr. Moonves. The Boomer generation gave you the PC. I started using the PC starting with DOS and using the first generation of Prodigy up to the present generation of software -- so you think I can't get around a filter on your email because I'm OLD? Sometimes Old = Experienced!

    Speaking of Les and all those minions he has to do for him -- Apparently they do everything except answer questions from reporters about all those NUTS! I'm sure he thought he was being complimentary about how the protesters were able to get around a filter -- because he can't as he has someone else to do it for him.

    Dear Les, don't judge our abilities based on your own.

    As to what the fans do next -- well, we broaden the protest to include every fan of every show that has been cancelled to Stand United and say "We Won't Take it Anymore!"

     
  • At 8:16 PM, Blogger James said…

    Boon Doogie,

    Here are the Click Throughs on our web banner
    Here are the click throughs on the Sign Jericho Petition banner on our site.

    May 17-May 31
    /index.html 1432
    /signed.cgi?09272006 162

    June 1-June 4
    /index.html 147
    /signed.cgi?09272006 16

    We are in post production so there is quite a large group of "us types" not wanting reality TV as these shows do not use SAG, DGA or WGA talent, but instead free talent of the public. These folks are very much in favor of shows like Jericho. With the pending creative strike (RE: WSJ May 17 "Hollywood Cries while the Net Parties"). July it is unlikely CBS care too much about Jericho as the other "bread winning shows" may not even get on the air. I anticipate a lot of sports and reality TV in the fall, regardless of the Jericho situation. Jericho decision was about three shows prior to the season finale and now "no decision is the decision".

    As someone in the industry, I would simply suggest to the Jericho campaign to gain support of the creative folks and those in favor or quality TV.

    My suggestions: 1) PR to the unions (get reality off TV), 2) PR to the quality TV types, 3) Continue the CBS communications bombardment 4) Pray there is not a strike in July.

     
  • At 9:01 PM, Blogger dwcarless said…

    Mr Schwartz goes too far.

    Thanks for the scoop on CBS's continued disrespect of its viewers.

    It is time for CBS to do some crawling:
    http://blog.myspace.com/dwcarless

     
  • At 9:57 PM, Blogger Cindy said…

    Some days with this campaign I feel like I've stumbled into the latest sequel to “Dumb & Dumber.”

    Les(s) Moonbeam speaking before some of the biggest movers and shakers of the digital age and actually demonstrating live and in person what a digital dunderhead he actually is.

    But Doggie, how can you say Moonpie doesn’t live like you and me? Why, according to video only available to WSJ subscribers Les(s) says he hops onto Al Gore’s information superhighway every morning. He’s a wired dude, dontcha know. I’m sure that Moon-over-Miami listens for the little ‘You’ve Got Mail!’ voice every morning while munching Cornflakes in his jammies just like you and me. Shame Rich. Shame, Shame, Shame for thinking otherwise! It has to be true because, after all, Moonless says so.

    I can almost forgive Moonie for his ignorance. He is so touchingly, totally clueless that I almost chuckle when he says that his comments about filtering out thousands of angry viewer emails was “taken out of context.” Heh, Heh. What a card you are, Lesteroo. Really.

    Stop it okay, ‘cause you’re killing me.

    Oh, and I’ve got a business proposal for you Moonlight: It’s a can’t fail proposition that will make you boatloads of money if you can just keep your mouth shut after the nice man from Nigeria gets in touch with you. Just listen for that little “You’ve Got Mail” voice and click on the little mailbox to learn more, ‘k? Don’t forget to put on that cute little tinfoil hat so your thoughts don’t spill out and give you away!!

    Ah, and then there is “Dumber.”

    Gil Schwartz’s poignant little ditty during the affiliates’ convention ranks right up there with the moron from Bank of America drunkenly warbling about “One Bank” during the BofA/MBNA merger party. Yep. As they say in the business world, “It’s a classic.”

    Gil. Baby. Sweetie: If you thought that channeling Brenda Lee made even a gram of business sense, Pass the pipe honey, ‘cause I want a taste of what you’re smokin’ Brutha.

    My understanding is that even the affiliate reps were offended.

    Sorry, Dogg. This is one of the few occasions where you and I will have to agree to disagree.

    Don’t think for a second that if “The monster” seizes on a PR campaign to highlight the high and mighty hijinks of Moonpie and Gil the Swill as its centerpiece—and garnishes it with news of the network’s ham-fisted attempts to muzzle a little feisty conversation on a crappy little internet fan board…well let’s just say that it won’t matter who came up with the idea.

    For all the public will care Les Moonves can blame the plumber he keeps on staff to help pull his head out of his A$$. It won’t matter.

    The network will look exactly as it is: A big, churlish bully kicking sand in the faces of the American viewing public.

    There are a lot of angry people out there itching for an excuse to respond to the network’s astonishingly arrogant diss.

    To paraphrase Frankie Valle (with apologies to my new buddy Gil)—who says Big (Network) Boys Don’t Cry?

    When the Jericho monster is through with him, Les Moonves will be weeping like a little girly-man into the sleeve of his “regular guy” jammies.

    I for one am sharpening my knives and—trust me on this one—I can hardly wait because I am through with being insulted by pinheads in pinstripes.

     
  • At 10:31 PM, Blogger AusTXBill said…

    Once again your comments are spot-on! CBS is making such silly moves as "banning" people and removing phone numbers from signatures - it is like they have one of David Letterman's interns running the PR response to this movement! The ditty by Gil Schwartz falls somewhere between incompetence and arrogance. I like to counter some who post that we do not pay the executives. We do in an indirect way, through the ancient manner of Nielson ratings. Less views measured for a show results in less amounts of money CBS can command for advertising on those shows. It is an indirect process, like the election of the president in the US, but it does have an impact. More Nielson families turn off of CBS for whatever reason equals less revenue for them in the long term. It takes time, however, and as with most battles worth winning the fights are not over quickly. The work done in the interest of Jericho may take a while to show any fiscal impact to CBS. The PR results, if transmitted via the viral monster that the "Save Jericho" movement has become, may pay off much more quickly if it is managed as you have suggested.

     

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