Two Point Oh

December 7, 2007


From Jim Metrock:

Channel One’s parent company Alloy Media and Marketing held a conference call on Wednesday, December 5 to discuss their 3rd Quarter financial results.

Normally it is very difficult to understand what is actually being said in one of these calls. Companies are always using words not to enlighten those listening, but to spin “OK news” into “Great News” and to make Bad News almost unrecognizable. This time it was even tougher to understand what was being said because Alloy’s CEO Matt Diamond insisted on doing much of the speaking even though he had lost his voice.

Why not let others do the talking? There were at least two other top management people in the room with Diamond and they all had the same script. They all had agreed on how they would spin the figures. It’s probably because Alloy is not doing well and they didn’t want to risk anything being read into the CEO not being available to defend his company.

If one looks at the amount of time company officials talked about Channel One and the amount of questions about Channel One from analysts, it is obvious that Alloy Media and Marketing has made Channel One an extremely important part of their company. Diamond and the other major shareholders are clearly looking to the newly hired Kent Haehl to turn Channel One around and make it a Shining City on the Hill again.

Indeed, Alloy’s CEO was able to croak out something about “Channel One 2.0.”

Actually Channel One has made a habit of reinventing themselves.

In 1998, CEO Kevin McAliley hired a middle school principal named Paul Folkemer to create an educational facade around Channel One News. It was hoped this would help calm growing public and Congressional concerns about the company. “Teach the news” was the mantra of this reincarnation of Channel One News. In three years, Folkemer was gone, the company began losing schools at a rapid pace, and “teaching the news” was just another tried and failed slogan.

In 2000 Channel One turned itself into a political powerhouse. The company realizes they are losing public support so they use their money and high-powered lobbyists to keep state legislatures and Congress from passing any legislation that would limit classroom marketing. This reincarnation of Channel One is probably their most successful one. It was a brilliant move that stymied efforts of parents and educators to kick commercials out of their children’s classrooms. However it only worked as long as the money for lobbyists lasted and that basically ran out in 2005. Like most things Channel One has tried, this one crashed and burned. Channel One’s chief lobbyist Jack Abramoff is now in a federal prison.

Over the years Channel One has tried to turn itself into an Internet destination for kids. At first they had chat rooms for kids but they messed up and allowed children to create private chat rooms where anyone could conduct private conversations with them. Obligation was instrumental in getting Channel One to end chat rooms. Then they added message boards to attract kids but Channel One employees failed to monitor the site and chaos resulted. One infamous thread on the Channel One message boards gave instructions on how young people could get into the practice of cutting themselves with knives and other sharp objects. We busted Channel One on this and that ended that version of Channel One News.

In the spring of 2005 Channel One’s CEO Jim Ritts was abruptly and unceremoniously let go by the company. In other words, higher-ups didn’t like the plunging fortunes of the company and they threw Ritts “under the bus.” Judy Harris was hired to replace Ritts and her job was to reinvent Channel One News. Her Channel One News would be about “appropriate messaging.” The TV show would empower kids as opposed to exploiting kids. She failed because Channel One’s business model is BASED on exploitation. That is why teachers are REQUIRED to show the program even if it doesn’t fit into their school day. The commercials MUST BE SEEN or Channel One is doomed. Ms. Harris didn’t last long. The company continued losing schools and Ms. Harris was abruptly and unceremoniously let go. Like Ritts and all the other Channel One CEOs the company didn’t even put out a press release thanking her for her efforts and wishing her well. She was “thrown up the bus” because she couldn’t transform Channel One News.

In 2006 Channel One News moved to Washington, DC to reinvent itself yet again. Being in the nation’s capital, Channel One boasted they would be THE source for public affairs information for young people. That lasted one year. Channel One News had barely gotten acclimated to their new DC studio before they packed up and moved to New York City to become what it is now a minor production of NBC.

Channel One News 2.0?

Don’t think so.

More like Channel One News 20.0.

Mr. Haehl and the handful of people left at Channel One News better work 24/7 to make this reinvention (whatever it is) work or they might find themselves on the underside of a New York City bus. I’ve seen it happen before.

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