Out of the Box : The TV Networks May Be on the Brink of Extinction. So ABC and Disney Are Trying to Reinvent Television as 'Tele-Fusion.' Goodbye, Boob Tube. Hello, Oscar.com, Buddy Cams and Zoogs

By Roberts, Johnnie L. | Newsweek, April 26, 1999 | Go to article overview

Out of the Box : The TV Networks May Be on the Brink of Extinction. So ABC and Disney Are Trying to Reinvent Television as 'Tele-Fusion.' Goodbye, Boob Tube. Hello, Oscar.com, Buddy Cams and Zoogs


Roberts, Johnnie L., Newsweek


The top executives at ABC had flown out to Aspen to meet with their boss, Disney CEO Michael Eisner. A key item on the agenda: reviewing their plans for the network in the world of new media. They told Eisner about how ABCnews.com had grown, and about how ESPN, ABC's cable-sports empire, had become a hot cyberspace destination. They talked about synchronizing the upcoming Oscars broadcast with Oscars activities on the Web. But while they didn't know it then, the most telling demonstration of the network's leap into cyberspace was taking place as they were eating dinner at Eisner's mountainside vacation home on March 3. As the participants plowed through a buffet, they watched Barbara Walters's interview with Monica Lewinsky, along with the 70 million other viewers who tuned in at one time or another. And of those viewers, 1.5 million also logged on to the ABC.com Web site to fish for more dish on the scandal, vote in a poll or demand to know the shade of Monica's lipstick. It all buoyed Eisner, leaving him encouraged about ABC's future. "This is fun," says Eisner. "This is more fun than I've had in 10 years."

If Eisner hasn't found television much fun in the past few years, who can blame him? As at all the other television networks, ABC's audience is shrinking, competitors are multiplying and programming costs are soaring. The upshot: in the four years since Disney acquired ABC, the network's annual results have plunged from an almost $400 million profit to a loss of $100 million or so. And the news is hardly encouraging at the other nets. Fox may lose $15 million this fiscal year. Profits at NBC, the No. 1 network, could by some estimates sink by at least one third. CBS expects a small profit--$15 million to $25 million--thanks to deep cost cuts.

Peter Jennings, the ABC News anchor, recently called television "the most transforming machine of the 20th century." But as that century draws to a close, it's television that's being transformed. The economics that undergirded the industry have been permanently altered. At the same time, the shift from Old to New Media is accelerating as the Internet spreads and "broad-band pipelines" offer warp-speed access to cyberspace. The networks--those Old Media titans that once loomed so large in American business, politics and culture--have been humbled, and now their very survival may be in doubt. "It's perfectly plausible that Yahoo, AOL and NBC will be the top three TV networks as the term will evolve," says Reed Hundt, former chief of the Federal Communications Commission.

Hyperbole? Don't bet on it. Not long ago, NBC chief Robert Wright suggested that the network might leave the air and become a pay-cable service. The media and online worlds buzz with the rumor that America Online will acquire CBS. And in the last two weeks simmering financial tensions between both ABC and Fox and their affiliates--the local stations that actually transmit the networks' signals to your TV set--have erupted into open warfare. Fox unilaterally moved to grab a reported $50 million to $100 million by taking away advertising time that had belonged to the local stations. And ABC is seeking to turn decades of broadcast economics upside down by, among other things, pressing affiliates to help pay for expensive programming. Early this month ABC abruptly ended months of talks with the affiliates. What's potentially at stake, Eisner says, is the survival of broadcast TV. "The world has changed," he says. "We can't continue losing all this money."

If the network business is to be reinvented for survival in the next century, ABC is arguably in the best position to do it. I t is part of one of the most vertically integrated media companies. The Magic Kingdom has vast resources along every step of the process of creating and distributing televised entertainment. The question is whether Eisner and Robert Iger, ABC's chairman and Walt Disney International president , will succeed in making all the parts come together in new ways.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Out of the Box : The TV Networks May Be on the Brink of Extinction. So ABC and Disney Are Trying to Reinvent Television as 'Tele-Fusion.' Goodbye, Boob Tube. Hello, Oscar.com, Buddy Cams and Zoogs
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.