Your Obligatory Andrew Lack Tea Leaf Reading Blog Post (Because All Media Sites Have to Have One…It’s A Rule)
Now that Andrew Lack has been officially named as the replacement for Pat Fili Krushel, we may finally start speculating about what this all could mean. But in order to speculate what it could mean we need to look at what the parameters are…
– Lack has oversight over NBC News and MSNBC but not CNBC. One wonders if Steve Burke polled Mark Hoffman and found that Hoffman would walk if Lack was installed over him. Hoffman is kind of like the cockroach in a nuclear war; everything around it gets destroyed but it lives on. Or, maybe Lack didn’t want oversight of CNBC. Some might view this aspect as a vote of confidence by Burke in CNBC’s current direction which would be an odd way of looking at it considering what the ratings have been doing lately.
– How far back will Steve Burke step now? This is an unknown, but, I can’t see someone like Lack, who originally exited NBC partly over a corporate turf war, coming back only to have to run to Burke about every thing he plans to do. Lack was brought in to right the ship and Burke is probably going to give him the latitude to do it whatever way he sees fit…up until the point that the final decisions has to be made on Brian Williams future anyways.
– Deborah Turness reports to Lack. For the moment. Expect that moment to be fleeting…especially if these stories have any truth to them.
– Phil Griffin reports to Lack. Whatever deal Griffin had going with Burke to get time to try and turn things around is probably null and void with Lack’s hiring. According to David Zurawik, Andrew Tyndall seems to rank MSNBC as the biggest problem for Lack which is saying something considering how valuable Today, MTP, and Nightly are. Griffin is an incrementalist, to a fault. MSNBC needs faster, more drastic action. I don’t see a good fit here with Griffin and Lack but…remember that nuclear war/cockroach analogy earlier? Well if Mark Hoffman is my #1 example of that in action, Phil Griffin would be my second choice. Don’t underestimate his ability to weather this out. Odds are he’s toast though.
My view of Lack is he was brought in to restore order and turn things around. He wasn’t brought in because he’s had a boatload of recent successes on his resume. Like Jeff Zucker, he’s been dining on things that happened decades ago. But he’s a name and he’s got a street rep inside 30 Rock that still holds up. His hiring buys time for a network that has been besieged by bad press for nearly two years. This is why I would not expect Turness to last too much longer. She is the next domino.
There have been two recurring storylines that have been floating around since Lack’s name first surfaced; Brian Williams coming back to Nightly and Katie Couric rejoining NBC. I already spent considerable space explaining why I don’t think its in NBC’s interest to bring Williams back nor why it’s in Lack’s interest to burn capital right off the bat on something that has optics this bad so I won’t repeat myself here. The Couric talk I find highly humorous.
Oh I’m sure people want her back. I’m sure Couric and Lack may be talking to each other. But you have to ask yourself the question when talking about Couric and NBC: How does this help fix the problems?
Yes, she’s a name and carries some cachet in certain circles, despite four consecutive endeavors each of which could be argued as a failure in their own specific way (CBS, ABC, syndication, Yahoo). But how does Katie Couric coming back to NBC help solve any of the four most prominent issues Andrew Lack has to immediately contend with; Today’s ratings battle, MTP’s ratings and direction, The Nightly question, and MSNBC’s future?
Some have floated the idea of Couric making periodic returns to The Today Show. Why on earth would you ever want to do that? That would be one of the worst decisions you could possibly make in terms of destroying what you are trying to build upon. It would bigfoot Savannah Guthrie who is supposed to be the future of that show and remind viewers of what Today used to have going for it but doesn’t any more.
Couric and Meet The Press? Non-starter no matter the role.
Couric and Nightly? Remember The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric? I rest my case.
MSNBC? Couric sure as heck wouldn’t fit in on Phil Griffin’s MSNBC but we don’t know how much longer Phil Griffin’s MSNBC will still be Phil Griffin’s MSNBC. Phil Griffin or no, Couric doesn’t fit in at all with primetime cable news as it is currently constructed (unless it’s CNN and even then I’d give you an argument). Dayside wouldn’t seem like a great fit either.
So we can argue that the four biggest issues facing NBC are not at all helped by a Couric return. So, what’s that leave? Taking over Dateline and the occasional special?
You can bring Katie back but if bringing her back doesn’t help fix the things that need fixing, what’s the point?
We may not see visual changes (read: on TV) as a result of Lack’s return for a while. His immediate moves are probably all going to be infrastructure related. Moving people around, bringing people in, showing others the door…getting his executive ducks in a row and putting his team in place to do things his way.
After that…then come the talent moves…