Thank goodness for TV ad buyers for knocking some sense into the suits at Discovery Communications.
Discovery received a rousing Bronx cheer last week during presentation to buyers of "Sarah Palin's Alaska." The preview, which had Palin showing off the natural wonders of the 49th State, was met with guffaws and disbelief, according to a report on the Young Turks, a political podcast, blog and program on Sirius XM Radio.
Palin has many fine attributes, but it's a mighty stretch to position "Drill, Baby, Drill" as the second coming of Mother Earth. The former Alaska governor wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for energy development. She's no friend of wolves (Sarah is keen on aerial slaughter) and polar bears (she opposed listing on the endangered species list). And global warming isn't Sarahís cup of tea, either.
Discovery is paying Palin $250K for each of the planned eight episodes. That's a nice piece of change.
More importantly, "Sarah Palin's Alaska" provides a platform for the shrewd politico to green-wash her lousy environmental record. That's handy for a potential 2012 presidential run. [This bulletin just in: President Obama is ahead of Ron Paul by a slender digit in the latest Rasmussen poll.]
If Sarah performs as poorly as she has been on Fox, Discovery is bound to write-off Palinís great adventure as a boondoggle, better not to be seen by a single soul in its 1.5-billion global audience base.
The Palin bomb proves that the golden touch even eludes Midas once in a while. Since joining Discovery Communications as CEO in January 2007 from NBC Universal, David Zaslav has the cable programmer operating on all cylinders. He enhanced Discovery's "lock" on nature programming via the launch of "Planet Green," a cross-country initiative that includes the only 24-hour eco-lifestyle TV network and TreeHugger.com, a top website for the environmentally concerned.
Discovery's '09 financials are the envy of the media world as net income soared to $552M from $317M. Revenues clocked in at $3.5B.
The Palin tie-in came out of left field. Some pin blame for the Palin debacle on COO Peter Liguori, who last year joined from Fox, where he was president of entertainment. He is quoted in the Discovery release announcing Sarah's show as saying:
"Communications is so excited to help Sarah Palin tell the story of Alaska, and to have a great documentary filmmaker in Mark Burnett helping to reveal Alaska's powerful beauty as it has never been filmed, and as told by one of the state's proudest daughters."
It doesn't matter who is to blame. Discovery will take a reputation hit if it sticks with Palin's program. Zaslav has a fine option. Once Sarah is ditched, he can concentrate 100 percent on Oprahís new TV show.