On of the Tall Tales of modern journalism is that TV newsrooms are loss leaders.
In the 1960s, the most profitable half-hour on television was the "Huntley-Brinkley Report." And "60 Minutes" is a cash cow. And that is a good thing because despite its inherent liberalism, "60 Minutes" does a good job. So does "Fox News." Ideologue news meanwhile swirls in the commode when it comes to ratings and revenues.
What prompted this post was a Twitter exchange yesterday.
@amahlee @NBCNews When you serve profits first, everything else is negotiable, including truth and integrity.— Laurin Suiter (@LaurinSuiter) December 9, 2015
@LaurinSuiter @amahlee @NBCNews The purpose of a TV network is to make money for its shareholders. Grow up.— Don Surber (@donsurber) December 9, 2015
@donsurber @amahlee @NBCNews Your juvenile condescension is appreciated. News divisions used to accept losses, as per the public interest.— Laurin Suiter (@LaurinSuiter) December 10, 2015
Really? So why was Huntley-Brinkley Report the most profitable half-hour on TV in the 1960s? https://t.co/ze8pyETQBg— Don Surber (@donsurber) December 10, 2015
Huntley-Brinkley simply was the best, far better than Walter Cronkite, who was a shill for liberal Democrats. With Chet in New York, and David in Washington, the two gave America its daily news in a businesslike manner. Whatever opinions they had, they kept to themselves -- and out of the news reports.
And "60 Minutes" really is a cash cow.
I base that on observation, and also this 2011 report by Aly Weisman of Business Insider: " '60 Minutes' Spends An Insane Amount Of Time And Money On One Show."
The show spends as much as $200,000 for one segment.
And according to Aly Weisman, it does 100 segments a year.
That would be up to $20 million a year.
Add in overhead costs -- fixed costs as it were -- and... oh wait, she did not have a figure. Eh, double it to $40 million for 31 episodes from September to May each year. Add another million for kicks, and you have $41 million a season.
Buried in the story was this nugget:
"60 Minutes" booked $123 million in ad revenue in 2012, up from $115 million the year prior, according to Kantar Media.Last time I looked, $123 million was triple $41 million.
That is assuming the $200,000 maximum is the cost of each segment and of course, assuming fix costs equal operating costs. Both assumptions are likely untrue, which means the cash cow is bigger than it looks.
The reason this show has been on the air for 45 years is that it makes money -- and more money than any other show would for CBS in the 7 pm Eastern Sunday slot. Pure and simple. And that is why, despite its liberal bias, "60 Minutes" is good journalism. They get sloppy, they lose their audience. Such pressure is far better than the courts or any other aspect of government can do.