Help Me, Internet, You’re My Only Hope

I’ve spent decades assisting dozens of media companies and hundreds of executives achieve optimal results.  I know there are many who would dismiss that as a word salad, but if you actually walked a mile, nay, a few steps in my shoes, you’d know in a heartbeat that every single syllable of that self-assessment is the gospel truth.

The trouble I face these days is that, thanks to a painfully frustrating series of events that are largely out of my control, there seems to be virtually no one in my most immediate circle of supporters who seems to know anyone who is in a position to actually help me convert that experience and knowledge into something reasonably close to the level of responsibility and yes, compensation, that I once enjoyed.  Nor provide me an opportunity to build upon that with something new.

In fact, even with the freshness of the new year several more one-time colleagues and friends actually took to LinkedIn and other social media sites to lament how, thanks to the overstepping and bad decision-making of the companies that employed them, and/or the overwhelmingly contrived and formulaic ways those companies seem to prefer diversity hires as a priority for the few positions that are open, they, like me, are now “open to work”.  And yes, I support them, I amplify them.  I even offer thoughts and prayers.  As they do me.

But they don’t pay either of our bills and every single day that goes by increases the amount of what I owe and decreases the level of patience those that I owe it to have with me.  And it seems that almost everyone else in that category has a sob story and a level of need that they feverishly believe is superior to mine.  And no matter how much I plead for lenience, the amount of hatred and anger that builds up in those who champion the needs of their friends, their friends’ kids, their co-workers, their clients and is then unleashed on me drives me to absolute despair; the kind that keeps me up late into the night, crying my eyes out, silently wailing at whatever deity is within earshot at what unfortunate choices I have made, and truly lamenting how in the world the few who seem to be able to rise above this simply don’t have the bandwidth or inclination to reach out to ME.

So when I see headlines like the ones that hit the trades this week about someone who provided me with the greatest professional success of my career, but yet someone who time and geography have rendered distant, my feelings, sorry to say, are a little mixed.

As DEADLINE’s Dade Hayes penned:

Veteran entertainment exec Peter Liguori has taken the reins of ad tech firm VideoAmp as executive chairman amid the layoffs of 20% of its workforce in a restructuring.

Liguori, who had already been serving as a board member at VideoAmp, was previously CEO of Tribune Media and also held senior exec posts at Fox Entertainment, FX and Discovery. He replaces Ross McCray, who founded VideoAmp in 2014 and is transitioning to a role as “active founder, board member and shareholder,” according to an official announcement.

And as Axios’ Kerry Flynn reported, a good deal of the why McCray was kicked to the curb was, as is the case with far too many tech bros, self-inflicted:

In September, VideoAmp announced a $150 million Series G from Vista Credit Partners. The following day, Axios reported that it had quietly laid off 10% of its staff, or around 40 people. VideoAmp president Michael Parkes also stepped down.

The big picture: A slew of chaotic changes to VideoAmp’s leadership team, staffing and finances underscore the challenges it faces trying to disrupt the media measurement industry.

  • The firm paid off some debt ahead of its latest round, but stakeholders have been concerned about the company’s spending, sources told Axios.

It’s important to bear in mind that in his most successful outings Liguori has frequently been brought into companies who had made numerous mistakes and been given free rein and the challenge to improve things.  The FX Liguori inherited at the best of longtime Rupert Murdoch loyalists was, pure and simple, a failure.  It was underfunded and ill-defined, initially conceived as a hybrid of low-cost reality shows that eminated from an “actual loft” in a New York high-rise and a competitor to library-driven cable networks like Nick at Nite utilizing a far weaker slew of Twentieth Century Fox series.  It wasn’t even called FX; the f was lowercase, as were their earnings.  I was fortunate enough to be thought of as worthy of joining that challenge, and, as many of you know, the rewards both personal and financial were life-changing.

When Liguori was tasked with trying to give life to Tribune, his task was far too daunting for even he to succeed.  Tribune was literally bankrupt, run into the ground in the majority of its endeavors ranging from traditional broadcast stations whose audiences were eroding to investments in real estate and technology that were not bearing fruit.  But he sure did try, and my Sony colleagues eagerly went along for the ride.  One of the businesses Tribune was trying to achieve something with was Gracenote, which offered ways to measure audiences that Nielsen was unable to bring to market or integrate into its outdated measurement systems.  Gracenote was the engine of a competitor called Symphony which provided third-party measurement that included viewing on non-connected screens.  I was the person most directly responsible for managing that information and the relationships therein.  Sony was relatively unique in the need and ability to support such a service; our competitors were corporately aligned with streaming services that provided them the info and spin they desired.  When Tribune’s financial troubles forced Liguori’s hand, Nielsen, as they were want to do, bought Gracenote out at a fire sale price and infused its technology into its own attempts to measure streaming, which ultimately resulted in Symphony shutting down, and me with a lot less to do at and for a transitioning Sony.

So I dare say that he and I have not only a shared history, but a shared experience as to the virtues of what a company like Videoamp can offer.  And even amidst McCray’s mismanagement, they were able to forge many relationships with media companies who at the very least wanted to see what their competition was up to in a way Nielsen couldn’t–and still can’t.  Per Hayes:

VideoAmp has set deals recently with Amazon, Disney, YouTube, Warner Bros. Discovery, Meta, NBCU, Paramount and other programmers. The company says more than $1 billion is slated to be measured and guaranteed on its currency in 2024 from more than 1,000 advertisers.  

Byron Allen’s media companies, which include the Weather Channel and dozens of local TV stations around the U.S., took the bold move of dropping Nielsen entirely and now used Videoamp as their primary measurement source.  Last month VARIETY’s Brian Steinberg reported why Allen, who like Liguori isn’t afraid to go against the grain, made that decision:

In June, the media entrepreneur’s Allen Media Group unveiled a 10-year deal with VideoAmp, one of a handful of new vendors striving to replace Nielsen as the entertainment sector’s go-to choice for audience measurement, as the backer of the audience data it would use to strike deals with advertisers. “A lot of decisions are being made that should not be made based on the measurement not being as strong as VideoAmp, and I think it’s important that we get the scorecard right,” Allen said during a recent interview. “We are all working hard, but we’re not getting credit for what we put up on the board. Now the technology is in place to provide greater transparency, greater accuracy and we as an industry have to adapt.” 

Amidst all of this opportunity and anti-Nielsen sentiment, Liguori and the Videoamp board wisely chose to bring another very smart man named Peter into its orbit this week as well, someone else I used to know when my phone calls were getting returned.  Per INSIDERADIO.com:

Peter Bradbury, the former Chief Commercial Officer at Nielsen who exited at year-end 2022 as part of a battery of C-suite exits under the measurement giant’s new owners, has landed at competitor VideoAmp as Chief Commercial & Growth Officer.

Bradbury is one of the first excised Nielsen execs to resurface after sitting out a one-year non-compete agreement following the company’s late 2022, early 2023 executive purge after being acquired by Elliott Investment Management and other private equity firms for $16 billion in October 2022.

I’m genuinely happy for Bradbury.  He is one of the few Nielsen executives I spent any amount of time with who offered both solutions and negotiating integrity.  And don’t think he’s not motivated to extract more than a pound of flesh from his former employer’s clients.  And regular readers to these musings already know how many other questionable moves and further layoffs have resulted from the Elliott team in charge; a group that is no better at spending and investing than was McCray.

I say all of this not only to toot the horns of the few people I can actually cheer have successfully landed new opportunties deservedly of late, but also to give you some justification that when I say I can fit into this kind of company in some way, shape or form–even as a consultant–I’m not merely ranting, dreaming or blowing smoke.

And yet–I can’t figure out a way to get in touch with either of them, and I’m apparently not top of mind in their worlds these days, either.

And based upon a smattering of outreaches I’ve already made, apparently, neither are most of you regular readers.

And that, truly, makes me frustrated to the point of nearly no return.

Yes, I’m to blame for many of my own self-inflicted wounds.  I’ve probably driven many of you to distractions with links like this asking for your help in other ways.  I’m still not above it, either.  Apologies yet again, but until this news it was perhaps the most proactive approach I could take amidst as dire and uncertain a media landscape as I’ve ever known.  A good deal of you have retired from it, and as you’ve reminded me, you’re ecstatic you don’t have to deal with the arrogance and ill-advised decisions that those in charge nowadays seem to believe is their birthright.  There’s an awful lot of Ross McCrays out there.

The Peters are motivated fighters and champions who are the absolute antitheses of those they are moving on from.  And I’m still arrogant–nay, self-confident–enough to assert so am I.

I’d much, MUCH rather earn my way back into solvency and relevance.  They’re starting new experiences and life acts.  Honestly, it’s high time I got my chance at those brass rings, too.

So I won’t turn down anything you might be inclined to offer via that link, though I’m increasingly less confident you will.  Times are tough for all of us, and more than ever I know the list of those of us who are struggling is growing.

And for all I know, some of you might already have reached out to Liguori and/or Bradbury because you at least have their current contact info.

That, more than anything else, is what I want.  I don’t want to hear what I continue to hear–“I’m out of the loop”, “I’ve moved on”, “I’m too tired”, “I’m taking care of my grandkids”, “I’m on vacation”.  Believe me, I envy you far more than you’ll ever realize.

What I hear is something along the lines of “you idiot, put up or shut up.  You say you’re so damn good and connected, prove it.  Why should we believe your old war stories are meaningful?”

Along with an even longer lecture about why Joe Biden is the greatest thing to happen to America since George Washington.

Well, it IS a political year, so I know damn well media outlets will have increased revenue opportunties.  And any company capable of capturing and counting more viewers for such ads is gonna be one in great demand.

Videoamp is definitely in that conversation, and the presence of the Peters will only amplify those already going on and start a whole bunch of new ones.

And, honestly, at a certain point not far off, they’re gonna need experienced help.

I want to be part of it.  No, I NEED to part of it.  Scratch that, I DESERVE to be part of it.

Someone HAS to know SOMEONE who MIGHT know how to get in touch with Liguori and/or Bradbury.  If not you, then someone in YOUR circle.

I can’t allow myself to actually believe my choices have been so consistently wrong that literally NO ONE who is capable of reading this can’t find SOMEONE who can at least give me the CHANCE to be considered.

Or, at worst, confirm the beliefs of my chiding, insulting, hurtful former colleagues.  You know, the ones “advising” Biden, and especially the ones who are blinding supporting his likely competitor.  Maybe I have reached the point where I’m no longer worth considering.

Maybe I am a relic.  Maybe I should just pack it in completely.  How completely, I’m not sure.

The more sleepless nights of non-stop crying I have, let’s just say those who might wish it be COMPLETELY complete are possibly more likely of getting that wish granted.

So, for G-d’s sake, if you can figure out a way to reconnect me , especially with Peter Liguori, please, please, PRETTY please, help me privately.  If you know someone–ANYONE–who might, please , please, PRETTY please reach out to them on my behalf.

Help me, internet.  You really are my only hope.

Until next time…

 

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