Tom Rogers Gets Sacked – Ritts Next?

March 2, 2003
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Primedia is Channel One’s
parent company. Since 1999, Tom Rogers has been its CEO. During his
tenure, Primedia stock has gone from $34 to 76 cents. You can pick
up a share today for under $3.00.

In 2000, Jim Ritts, then the head of the infamous Digital Entertainment
Network (DEN), was fired by that company. Not much is known about
the "why" but
Ritts found himself out of work and Channel One, the company he use
to work for in the early 90’s was without a president. Kevin McAliley
was president of Channel One until he abruptly resigned. Rogers offered
the Channel One president’s job to the newly-unemployed Ritts and
he has been the president since then.

At the time of his hiring, Obligation questioned the wisdom of
hiring Ritts. He brought with him the baggage of being one of
the Whittle
Boys. (Chris Whittle was the CEO of the company that created Channel
One in 1989.) He also had the stink of DEN all over him. (Type
in "Digital
Entertainment Network" in a search engine and see what Mr.
Ritts was planning for kids.)

Fortunately, DEN folded, but Ritts has been aggressive in his transformation
of Channel One News from a controversial TV show into an extremely
controversial TV show. Ritts increased the movie advertising
on the show and he didn’t care how vulgar or violent the fare.
Ritts
was
president when the pro-drug "Dude, Where’s My Car?" was
advertised. He gave the "OK" to numerous movies that
were saturated with sexual content. Ritts wanted to push the
envelope and he did, over
and over again. Many advertisers left Channel One since Ritts
was hired.

Ritts also mixed advertising with the news part of the show and
dared to risk a mass exodus of schools by violating the terms
of the school
contracts. Ritts approved the increased use of guest hosts
to push their music, TV shows and movies. Ritts has increased
the
total
time devoted to advertising. The contract says there should
be no more
than two minutes of ads. Under Ritts ad time has often gone
over three minutes
and sometimes over four minutes. Some schools have removed
Channel One because of this breach of contract. The standards
of the
show have gone downhill rapidly since Jim Ritts came back to
Channel
One. Under
Ritts, Channel One anchors began to pitch products while in
their role as news reporters. Every Channel One reporter has
plugged
for Gatorade
and Cingular Wireless. Reporters have also done work for Warner
Brothers, Columbia Pictures and Touchstone Pictures.

Now that Tom Rogers is gone, Ritts probably has no more than
six months before he is shown the door. Ritts was Tom Rogers’
man,
so now the
new Primedia CEO, yet to be named, will want his or her own
person in Ritts’ job. Anybody they hire will be an improvement.