Les Moonves as James Dolan, Dawn Ostroff as Isiah Thomas?

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April 20th, 2008

The CW’s Dawn OstroffI am a lover of sports.  There's also some part of me that is very interested in psychology and human nature.  Sometimes sports collides with that in a very rich way that is at least the stuff of a made-for-TV movie.

The New York Knicks hired Isiah Thomas as both the general manager and then ultimately the coach of the basketball team.  While Thomas very clearly was one of the best basketball players of my generation, there was nothing to suggest he had a clue when it came to running a team.  In fact, on the business side there was a lot to suggest that he didn't have a clue.  Dolan hired him anyway.  Despite the fact that Isiah did a lousy, terrible, awful job by any metric you could possibly come up with, it seemed like Dolan would never ever fire him.

Isiah ThomasFinally Isiah was replaced as both GM and coach, but Dolan won't wash his hands of Isiah completely because no matter what Isiah does - Dolan loves, loves, loves him some Isiah.

This morning's overnight ratings report got me thinking that there may be a parable inside the broadcast television industry where Les Moonves stars in the role of James Dolan and the CW Network's chief Dawn Ostroff stars in the role of Isiah.

While we doubt that Ms. Ostroff ever shamed the Tiffany network with a sexual harassment scandal as Isiah shamed the Knicks and the NBA, by every conceivable metric, save perhaps one, Ostroff has done an abysmal job running the CW network.  While the CW is a joint venture between CBS and Time Warner,  Time Warner ceded day-to-day operations completely to CBS.   

Some have speculated that the CW deliberately fails in order to give CBS a tax write-off.  But I'm not a big believer in any kind of math that amounts basically to throwing away $600,000 or so out of a million in order to get $400,000 back on a tax-return.  I don't buy into that kind of math.

So I wonder if there's not something similar going on where Moonves just loves, loves, loves Ostroff no matter what she does.  I consider this in a very different realm than Dolan, Isiah and the Knicks.  Dolan may be a complete idiot, but it's his team,  his money, and while the fans won't love him for it, he can do whatever he wants and it's all on him.  With CBS, the CW, Moonves and Ostroff it isn't quite the same.  CBS is a publicly owned company with shareholders so the infraction seems more heinous, even if less in the public eye.

Am I envious that the likes of Isiah Thomas and Dawn Ostroff can get paid millions of dollars for lousy performance?  Of course I am.

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