News

Streamlining here, there, everywhere

Phil Rosenthal
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

NBC News says it's streamlining its operations. It's dividing the country into three regions, which means Chicago is losing bureau chief Tom Lee and much of whatever autonomy it might once have enjoyed.

The Chicago bureau now will take its orders from the news division's New York hub. Other U.S. hubs are in Atlanta and Burbank, Calif. Foreign bureaus will be directed through its London hub.

NBC News boss Steve Capus on Thursday unveiled the new arrangement he says will make the division's news-gathering operations more efficient. A few hours later, all hell broke loose in DeKalb and the Chicago bureau loomed large, regardless of who was in charge.

Better than axing: "Streamlining," incidentally, has become quite the buzzword in the media business.

In recent days, CBS Radio has said it is streamlining operations. Tribune Co., this paper's parent, is streamlining. TV networks and movie studios are streamlining.

It's practically the new black.

With traditional media businesses fighting for their very existence, they have determined they no longer can afford the layers of management or the luxury of the staff sizes that accrued in less competitive, more lucrative times.

Streamlining evokes a noble image of someone taking a sledgehammer to a Berlin Wall of bureaucracy, a far more appealing picture than that of people emptying their desks into boxes.

___

Oh, nuts: All those fans who sent CBS executives nuts and pledged to encourage friends and family to watch "Jericho" if only the network would uncancel the apocalyptic drama got what they wanted.

CBS, not so much.

Despite a significant marketing push, the return of the revived series last week drew around 7.1 million viewers, which is smaller than the audience that got it canceled last season. It did beat a fresh episode of ABC's "Boston Legal" in the advertiser-friendly age-18-to-49 demographic but only tied a rerun of "Law & Order: SVU" on NBC.

The hope both for CBS and "Jericho" loyalists is that the numbers improve with digital video recorder and online viewing.

Meanwhile, VH-1's "Best Week Ever" wants people to show their support for "Friday Night Lights" by sending light bulbs to General Electric-owned NBC. And New York magazine is asking fans of the extinct sitcom "Caveman" to urge excavation by sending hair to ABC.

Makes the nuts seem sane.

___

Mark your calendar: We're less than a year from analog TV going away. As of Feb. 17, 2009, a cable or satellite box, signal converter or a digital set will be needed to watch TV. Otherwise all we'll get is static and white noise ... and it still will be better than Nancy Grace.

___

Ads, divisions and subtractions: Now that the 100-day war with the writers is over, it will be interesting to see how dramatically NBC follows through on its talk of downsizing its New York upfront presentation of its fall TV schedule to advertisers, a Radio City Music Hall tradition each May.

The upfront is a pricey rite of spring for networks eager to score cash commitments from advertisers months ahead of new programs actually hitting the air.

All NBC is saying so far is "changes will be made."

CBS announced it still plans to stage its pitch to Madison Avenue at Carnegie Hall, though it's not known if it will be as lavish as in past years; one recent CBS upfront featured the Who performing all three "CSI" theme songs. Fox, which stripped down its upfront presentation last year, still intends to hold court at New York's City Center. ABC will remain at Lincoln Center but also wants to pare away some of the extravagance. The CW still plans to do its presentation at Madison Square Garden.

My Network TV, Fox's little sister, ditched its upfront last year, sending its executives and sales staff on the road to court advertisers on a more intimate - and less costly - basis, which might be the kind of streamlining NBC intends.


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