Disney's super kid
ABC, Inc. has benefited from the magic touch of its new parent, the Walt Disney Company, and maintains one of the industry's largest multimedia operations. Unfortunately, the company's most famous arm - the ABC Television Network and its 224 affiliates - has suffered of late. Once the nation's leading network, ABC has fallen to third place among the major networks.
ABC merged with United Paramount Theatres in 1953, and began hiring outside studios, including Disney Studios, to produce its programming in the 1950s. The network picked up cable sports channel ESPN in 1984, and was bought out by Capital Cities Communications in 1986 for a cool $3.5 billion. In 1996, Capital Cities/ABC was purchased by entertainment steamroller Disney for $19 billion. Under Disney's big mouse ears, the company cut out ABC Productions, and nixed plans to create a 24-hour news channel. Also in 1996, the company simplified its name to ABC, and kicked off a controversial ad campaign in 1996 based around a "TV is good" theme. The campaign depicted its wares as guilty pleasures, featured witty phrases such as "Don't worry, you've got billions of brain cells," but so far has generated more buzz than ratings.
Lying reporters; cutting down
In addition to its television broadcasting operation, which generates 85 percent of the company's revenues, ABC operates ABC radio and its affiliates and produces a slew of business guides and periodicals. In 1997, the network was forced to pay for having reporters lie on their job applications and pose as employees in order to produce a flashy expose on "Prime Time Live" about Food Lion's unsanitary practices. (A federal judge reduced the network's payout in punitive damages to the food chain from $5.5 million to $315,000.) Also that year, Disney continued to trim ABC's fat by selling four ABC newspapers, and partnering with Starwave to create ABCNEWS.com, a news Web site.
For you sports fans
ABC is ready for some football, and hopes viewers are too - the network laid down $4.4 billion in 1998 to keep broadcasting rights to "Monday Night Football," the highest rated sports program on TV. National Mobile Television (NMT) announced its provision of on-site production facilities for this hit Monday night program, as well as the NFC Wildcard Game and 2003's Super Bowl XXXVII, after its purchase of all of ABC Sports mobile production units in June 2000. NMT will be the sole provider for all of ABC Sports domestic productions until 2004.
Though the network has been losing its previous reign over Tuesday night viewers, led for the past decade by "Home Improvement" and "Roseanne," the one thing its new owner knows, is kids. Under Disney's lead, the network has vied with Fox for the number one spot in Saturday morning programming, while the ABC Multimedia Group has enjoyed success with its digital and interactive television operations.
Tarses jumps ship
ABC president Jamie Tarses resigned in August 1999 after a stormy three-year stint at the network. Tarses encountered trouble from the beginning of her ABC career, locking horns with chairman Stuart Bloomberg shortly after she came aboard. Things calmed down for a spell, and Tarses seemed to be working well with Bloomberg, but when Disney decided to merge its TV operations with those of ABC, things turned sour again, this time between Tarses and Disney studio chief, Lloyd Braun. Braun attempted to alter ABC's programming too much for Tarses' tastes and the two personalities clashed. The altercation ultimately led to Ms. Tarses resignation.
The million dollar craze
Ratings are up, and the numbers are pulling for ABC, especially after the release of its explosive new series "Who wants to be a millionaire." The network beat out NBC on a Thursday night in May 2000 - the first time in six years. Its competitor CBS is feeling the heat too. In the same month, ABC pulled 18.2 million primetime viewers in one week, 6.6 million higher than that for CBS. The company also signed an agreement with Time Warner Cable to guarantee ABC programming will be accessible to Time Warner Cable customers until 2006.
Insiders say interviewing with ABC "shouldn't be stressful." Expect an interview with your potential boss, and questions about yourself, and your experience. One insider notes that for those looking to get a foot in the door through an administrative position, familiarity with Microsoft Office is a definite plus, since it is ABC's standard software package. Another insider advises, "Be specific when you're talking to the interviewer - do not say 'I will do anything.' That is the quick ticket back to the lobby of the building." For those interested in the "glamour" jobs, such as those with the network's flagship news program, insiders say to expect "fierce competition."
"ABC company accepts resumes submitted via regular mail at both its New York and Century City (Los Angeles) offices. ABC keeps resumes on file for up to six months. In addition, positions are frequently available at ABC's affiliate television and radio stations. For a list of affiliates and for more information on resume submissions, consult ABC's home Web page, located at www.abc.com. The network publishes a listing of available entry level positions, available at ABC headquarters.
Though ABC's size makes generalizations difficult, most insiders report long hours and lots of perks, courtesy of the almighty dollar. While some describe ABC's corporate culture as "stuffy" and "plagued" by "constant meetings," others have had a more laid back experience. Pay varies as well - some describe their salaries as "consistently high, even at the entry level," while others report that "the pay isn't great." Ultimately, one insider reports "Every department at ABC has a different culture." However, insiders agree that the network is definitely a business. Reports one 20-year news veteran, "When I started, network news didn't have the obsessive attention to ratings that it has now. Money and budgets weren't as carefully scrutinized as they are now." Still, many employees say that the television business offers "thrill after thrill" and that ABC is an "excellent" place to break into it, thanks to its internal promotion policy. In addition, a network news insider reports, "I see many people in their 20s who seem to use this job as a stepping stone to other careers."
Different positions also result in widely varying experiences, as one notes, "There is the 'above the line' element which is producers, directors, and talent, and then there are the 'below the line' employees, such as camera operators, videotape editors, sound people, etc." Dress depends on one's position and department, too. Says one insider at the network's TV operations, "In a production environment, I can get away with casual dress every day. I can't remember the last time I wore a tie here. Middle and upper managers dress like typical corporate employees, although many managers have allowed casual Fridays to creep in," reports one. An insider with the company's online division reports that "there are no dress codes in my department."
Long hours and perks which are "quite good" prove a common thread. While the "9 to 5" schedule is "usually manageable," the work days tend to "stretch" during busy seasons. Another notes, "If you're just starting out, you can expect long hours, possible overnight shifts, and weekend and holiday work." Dress has become more formal under Disney, though some. Online department enjoy a more laid back dress code. Perks at ABC's headquarters include a large in-house cafeteria with "almost any type of food imagineable," and an employee credit union. "You can even buy stamps and mail your bills in the lobby," says one insider. Our contacts also report receiving Disney discounts and free movie tickets. Another plus about the network's New York headquarters - it's about a half block from Central Park, where employees often report taking a relaxing lunch.
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