Birds Of A Feather

Note to self: do what is possible to avoid taking impromptu naps.  Before yesterday afternoon, the last time I was jarred awake by a text message alert that my best friend had been an unwitting victim of a crime (it wasn’t physical; said friend is fine, albeif emotionally jarred).  Yesterday, another good friend texted me the cryptic “Tucker move is interesting”.  I had no idea at the moment that while I was napping, perhaps the most transformational announcement of platform disruption had been dropped by the recently ousted former king of prime time cable televison.  As NEWSWEEK’s Chloe Meyer recounted:

Tucker Carlson, who was let go by Fox News last month, has sparked an internet storm after unveiling plans to move his show online by broadcasting on Twitter.

The former Fox presenter tweeted a video on Tuesday outlining his intention to pivot to social media, uploading an almost 3-minute clip with the caption: “We’re back.” His announcement proved to be divisive as viewers and commentators reacted to the news. And the clip had been viewed more than 68 million times, retweeted by more than 147,000 people, and garnered almost 630,000 ‘likes’ by Wednesday morning.

Yes, interesting is one of several adjectives I’d use to describe it.  Along with groundbreaking, jusitfying, legitimizing, amplifying and, some might say, weaponizing.  And in that 2:58 clip, a personality who, like him or not, had dominated the cable news landscape, and more often than not delivered more viewers to his nightly FOX News program than any other program on any other network, linear or cable, and, of course, any streaming outlet on any given day, turned Elon Musk from a quirky, albeit revered business mogul who had arguably overpaid for a mid-tier social media site into a visionary who now has an opportunity to not only “torch FOX News”, as many outlets opined yesterday, but the media landscape itself.

Musk has been castigated, perhaps with some validity, for the torching and Napalming of Twitter since he took over several months ago, firing thousands of employees, personally integrating himself into public discord and debates and sending out poop emojis much the way a teenager would whenever someone from mainstream media would attempt to call him out on something.  But in joining forces with someone with the appeal and impact of Carlson, he has brought to his world someone who can help him make Twitter a more impactful entity than ever, not to mention significantly help several of the initiatives he had already been working on in a far quieter way.

Because a week ago, on the heels of Carlson’s shocking ouster from FOX, Twitter had a significant presence at the NBCU Newfront presentation, as DEADLINE’s Dade Hayes had reported;

Despite all of the upheaval at Twitter under new owner Elon Musk in recent months, the social media firm and NBCUniversal say they have gotten their earliest start yet in ramping up their Olympic Games partnership.

With more than a year to go before the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, Twitter announced during a presentation Wednesday to ad buyers that it is working with NBCU on expanding the scope of the team-up. Although timed with the official NewFronts overseen by the IAB this week, the presentation to advertisers wasn’t an official, IAB-sanctioned event and members of the press were not in attendance.  The goal of the stepped-up partnership, according to NBCU, is to deliver more premium video, live moments and stories about athletes leading up to the Games. Plans also call for a way to let Twitter users follow athletes “all the way to the field of play.”

The announcement comes a couple of weeks after an onstage conversation between Musk and Linda Yaccarino, head of ads and partnerships for NBCU, at the Possible conference in Miami.

Hmmm,  That’s awfully similar to the note that Meyer added about the possible roots of the Carlson-Musk alliance:

Carlson’s announcement, which came just weeks after Twitter owner Elon Musk sat for a two-part interview with him on Fox News, set the internet alight.

If you’re ever looking for breadcrumbs on who Elon Musk may be soon announcing a business venture with, one might want to see who he chats with in public.

NBCU and Yaccarino have been among the few legacy media outlets and executive that have stuck by Twitter amidst the tumult, with Yaccarino frequently justifying the site’s viability to amplify the messaging and reach for the clients.  The Olympic partnership is one the two companies have shared since 2008, when NBC was attempting to launch its own aggressive multiplatform approach to the multibillion dollar investment they made in the Olympics just as linear ratings were beginning a decline.   While others with less at stake took stands on whether to pay eight bucks a month per person for verified blue checks, Yaccarino, who is one of the most auspiced and moral executives I’ve come across in the nearly four decades I’ve known her, defended Twitter and, parenthetically, Musk.  And now, they have the potential to both benefit greatly by the addition of Carlson.

As has been widely reported, FOX News has suffered significant audience erosion in the 8 PM time slot since Carlson’s ouster, effectively falling back to the pack with MSNBC occasionally outdelivering them.  Not all of the defected viewers have gone to Newsmax; their raw gains are roughly half the net loss and as I’ve chided all of those at FOX who refused to do a simple Nielsen analysis, not even all of those new Newsmax viewers were specifically former viewers to Carlson.  The same is true here.  Plenty of those lagged viewers have either gone somewhere else, not necessarily permanently, or left the linear TV pot entirely.  Clearly, the potential for some significant percentage of Carlson’s viewers to watch him on Twitter exists, especially if a nightly show of his were to drop at roughly the same time of day that he once occupied.  Were a few FOX News stragglers to defect to a nightly Twittercast, that may indeed be enough to cement MSNBC as the number one outlet in what’s left of cable news.  Don’t think that distinction won’t help Yaccarino’s team sell a few more packages for that platform.

And it’s clear that an audience with the U.S.-first attitude that a majority of Carlson’s viewers have would likely be supportive of the kind of positive and patriotic content that the Olympics provide.  So NBC Sports will likely benefit from an increased amount of traffic to Twitter, which will make their multimedia investment broader and more impactful.

How will Carlson’s content be seen?  If Musk were opportunistic, he’d put first access behind a paywall that would be available only to verified subscribers.  You get Carlson’s show live with the capacity to interact for that $8 a month and your little blue check.  Oh, you think that sounds a tad politically motivated?  Peacock Plus subscribers paid $10 a month to get feeds of Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers’ late night shows (when they were being produced).  No one took NBC to task for that.  And no one should blame Musk if he were to have picked up the same idea from whatever he may have learned from his chats with the likes of Yaccarino.

And as Carlsen teased in the later moments of his video, and as reported by Meyer, more may be ahead:

Starting soon, we’ll be bringing a new version of the show we’ve been doing for the last six and a half years to Twitter. We’ll be bringing some other things too, which we’ll tell you about. But for now, we’re just grateful to be here.”

That sure sounds like a Tucker-verse awaits.  Like-minded influencers like those at Outkick, including those who cover sports.  Perhaps even a few liberal voices to offer Carlsen red meat, much in the way Alan Colmes was Sean Hannity’s sacrificial lamb for years. If Howard Stern could use that formula to legitimize satellite radio to his advantage, Carlsen certainly has the potential to do the same for digital video.

In one dramatic move, Musk has not only done more for his Twitter investment than any round of layoffs or interference on his part had acheievd, he effectively created what someone else had touted nearly two years ago and has gotten literally nowhere fast with. Nearly a year ago, plans for TMTG+ were announced, with job postings for producers and grandiose plans to challenge the media landscape with, as BUSINESS INSIDER reported at the time, an ambitious agenda:

“TMTG+ intends to offer programs including, but not limited to blue-collar comedy, cancelled shows, Trump-specific programming, faith-based shows, family entertainment, shows that embrace the Second Amendment, and news.”

Instead, all that service has done is given a certain now-convicted sexual assaulter an alternative to Twitter to whine in all caps about witch hunts, which if I don’t miss my guess was probably being done on a toilet in Florida just as news of the Carlson-Twitter allince was showing up in his alerts.  Given what news about him had dropped just before Carlsen’s, I’d say he had a lousier day than all of us.

You may not like Elon Musk or Tucker Carlson, and that’s your right.  I can’t say I’d seek either one of them out for a beer anytime soon.  But if someone like Linda Yaccarino doesn’t mind, and if they offered to pick up the tab, I wouldn’t snub my nose.  For this deal alone, they both merit our attention.

Until next time…


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