tv Frank Bennack Leave Something on the Table CSPAN November 3, 2019 12:30am-1:19am EDT
>> he returned to the air this week after recovering from prostate cancer surgery we cannot be more grateful for you to be here today. i have the pleasure of working with frank over the past 26 years burqa what is remarkable that represents less than half of the ten year having his company for the better part of six decades with 40 years as ceo. under his leadership it has expanded including historic partnerships the history channel a anion lifeline and of course espn. expanding between three and 33
television stations and they built their legacies through the best in class brand. we are most proud of the importance of community service to better the lie. to highlight the importance of corporate leadership to capture the culture of our company and to summarize i believe it's not who you know when taking a page let's play hardball.
[applause] bad beats at a memorial service i ever attended. [laughter] that's you find out who your friends are but first of all the hero of mine and i always knew the myth and the legend but the idea that i had about you with the peace corps with a big empty jungle to be regulated citizen kane was playing. but the thing about it to build this big empire. everybody remembers the lights going out and then i heard
about you to rebuild that and save it and you did that and in the book you point that out. [laughter] with humility. where you getting your money cracks so how do you see a way through the changes that there is new media like espn that they use to chronicle today i always wonder what the losing team rights for the headlines. [laughter]
>> a say in the book i think the short answer is coming to different points of their life i have to come on board as a whole generation of leadership was retiring because many of them had worked but that leadership. [applause] [laughter] has to be like that at every meeting. >> why did you pick the theme from the state and? [laughter]
>> i just like it. what helped our company get to the great depression they were behind in classified advertising in almost every market many was moving to morning newspapers that then came paper rationing which meant all of a sudden we were getting as much paper as the big guy and they had to cut back to take care of the rest of what they were producing so we could pick up on that classified advertising. but to go back to your original question and we had a huge opportunity that was very important. one was the will were mister
hirsch appointed 13 people to be trustees of his company only five to be member of his family. says they made that decision to have the company survive into the future it had to be in a professional only one or two have resigned it must not be a family member to succeed. we were ready to take advantage and without the family member and no more of 20 percent of a nonvoting
stock. that was held by the charitable organization. so we gave them $136 million that was the obligation to fund them and to grow the company so both of those worked beautifully. the family support would have been there but it was really there because they could see we were making progress as bill loved every hire we made bringing someone may - - bring in one of the best-known editor editors. but they left - - love that gave us the support. our culture is the answer. we care about the employees. we work with each other.
single objective to have the best company we can have in every category and when people have difficulty in performing their job we help them to do that. we you always assume you change them out. my own experiences 75 percent chance of success within and 5050 with recruitment. you need both because if you only recruit from within then you miss a lot of knowledge and experience but on the other hand there is a learning curve and it's very difficult to keep pace with that those are the principles i just learned i had no idea what i was doing. [laughter] for those of you who have read the book know the education that my father gave me he was
an artist and a songwriter and a show man and had he not and taking a civil service job for about 12 years on treated me as an adult up until his last day he would say are you doing okay with mister hirsch? it was our fault. [laughter] >> you talk about the family is interesting. >> it works in large measure because it was the management majority so it was mandated to
work so once they saw the cooperation and support it still has space it wasn't difficult for them it's what the test data wanted and it is working and when i was ceo talking regularly with him and then you start there and any other issue is that everybody thought their name was hirsch that they were rich so i have great admiration with a
different approach we all have great senses of humor so today they are unified with us and with management but in the end we have the votes. >> you bought 20 percent of espn for $120 million. i did the math. that equals six. [laughter] >> so tell me the day you decided there was money in sports. >> it never would have happened if we didn't build a relationship with the founder of abc as we know it today. we were on a board together
and we were at a meeting together one day talking about this phenomenon of cable which change the business to being a programming source. if were going to lose a lot of money let's do it together so we did. we lost money for seven years before the combination of a&e and history and doing that time when - - during that time that's a long time we hope you know what you're doing. ultimately they said we really hit the mark but on the specific when espn became an opportunity for us via my seniormost partner decided i
got a lot of pushback because the main programming theme was tractor pulls at that time that you just do that lifetime and a annie are losing money. that's the principles of business. and it is working only incrementally. and we knew this would work. and that was a powerful part. that was the largest with the role that magazines played to the expansion initially.
>> but there is that transactional sense. that he has his own problems right now. but this idea you have a woman in the book. and then we should have paid you more. >> i didn't have to write that. [laughter] so what was that all about? people higher agents but this idea of to the death talk about that.
>> as the name implies the other guy does not have to lose for you to win. if you leave something on the table with the transaction it's a play of the day if you don't you don't get to play another day. the last thing we believe in is hardball. [laughter] >> hardball has different definitions. [laughter] >> but when you say you get the last nickel of the deal what does that mean for the future quick. >> it is a relatively small world.
and then it's next to impossible we couldn't get it done. if there is an environment like that of two dozen people. and then to recognize the need to have a good outcome. that doesn't mean that you don't work hard or do you can to maximize the return that you will get. you may notice the business roundtable it is on the mark. through the concept that everything should go through shareholder value is not the way to approach business. there are communities and employees and people who have skin in the game.
business hall of fame which i was inducted to a few years ag ago, i spoke and they came up to me afterwards and said she said it was sold. and then we tried to buy and did not succeed but the point was the price now is doubled and what she historically paid. i will say this. it doesn't cover the cost of distribution. so the fleeing of classified advertisers is the biggest single event it was a big source of income for newspapers that there were
days when there were 115 pages of advertising 115 pages. we still have a reasonable business that was a big change but it is in the dna for those that we acquired to pay for themselves several times over so that is gravy. and we are doing something so president obama asked me if you only break even with your newspaper would you continue to publish? i said we might not be the
right people to ask that because we have a strong organization otherwise. but you wouldn't get the same answer from the independent publisher to stay in business. but i feel better about it because this will strengthen and extend the life as far as i can see doing more digital advertising but the combination to get the reader to pay a select price today is 12 or $15 per week and holding on enough advertising and that is the formula for today. as a local publisher with the
advertising. >> in philadelphia when i grew up there was a hundred 14 paper papers. >> but it was more than that. >> the evening news on television and a change in society because of blue-collar worker went to work early in the morning and left early in the afternoon and left the paper in the afternoon so now they moved over to a morning paper it is a change in society to have anything over the market is delivered and
how does that work out economically quick. >> as long as we can make the business model that i describe continue to work it's more on the digital side for good if we can continue to grow digital advertising and in particular video connect the cpm more than if it is just text. so i'm very well aware of what you say except the rare individual of what would be lost in the absence of these great daily newspapers that we all rely on. if i have not read the new york times or the wall street journal somebody would bring something up and this is a big difference the random access device you don't know where as
most online activity in pursuit of something pacific. where else do you get that quick. >> i was going to read about pakistan. and the peripheral vision. and then you race through that. >> and that's even a better and has a little more time to do it but i usually get to the times but i would say in my view the journal has made the progress and what it does in the washington post and we don't see dad every day but
for a number of reasons from a professional point of view with a big entertainment company and i worry about the future. >> what are the economics of that quick. >> it's very tough. and a lot of people thought it could never work because it didn't have the benefit and that's also the future of television stations. in the television renew - - in the news we win in the marketplace. when this is very important
because you want those that are well-informed that's the way they are but with my broadcasting colleagues really compared to what you can learn so it is a tough fight but my confidence level is not only high but we are breaking the code on digital. and also that it is the highest quality whether a magazine or the quality of the paper. that's a formula for going out of business. if you have a strong print product that outlook is not as
dire as some people believe. >> you say. >> absolutely. >> but that 20 -year-old and a lot of what he is reading originated and the answer to that is to be a player and many of the markets with the leading that strive for that as well and if you can do that with a local staff that has entrepreneur tendencies and is
willing to step up, there is a place. the numbers of people on paper or no question. i will bet if we did a survey of the majority prefer the paper version. we have them all you can have it online and if i'm home the biggest frustration i talk about in the book my wife is a newspaper reader if she gets to it first. [laughter] and stuff is torn out. >> the first is ironing the newspapers. [laughter]
>> and the correspondence. >> but you wouldn't write that book. >> you have any more advice i get the sense that honesty is the key to be taken for granted the fact that they trust you they turn over the identity to you. >> i am grateful that has been a great run. and i have no regrets. >> let's take some questions.
>> are you worried about too much opinion right now? because it's getting more torrential. >> media at large quick. >> no. i guess. i wouldn't isolate that most have use of your own for polarization. i worry about that but less about opinion and the unpleasantness that comes out of that. it is toxic and to find a way to recover from. >> believe it or not we want
to leave that if you open your ears and listen you're not afraid to change your mind. >> will it is the pace for philanthropy? so a very wealthy guy just moved it and said fine. >> but what they have done that there is a trend and there is a number of groups because the best journalist lost their positions they put together groups that allowed other sources. and we still get a fair amount.
and always looking to publish with us. and there was more opportunity. i'm glad for that and that greater trendline that that they do that succeeding well in society. and there are a number of those instances. >> thinking yesterday of the mark zuckerberg testimony in that silicon valley mindset not always leave something on the table so i'm just wondering how you view these new entrants that are not traditional media but yet have
become regular distributors of traditional content as well as new forms of information. >> i'm sure as any thinking person does with a company that runs on algorithms and every human dimension and those that take delight in coloring outside the lines. but if it will change anything material remains to be seen. they are so powerful and never would have believed in the 60 years in business that our government would allow those two or three firms to get to the size that they have had with zero interference. we could not even by a competing newspaper that was losing money without spending
times and hearings. and washington knows that but the endgame is all powerful and importantly as users there is a utility. but somebody said the other day we may come to look at this era the way we look at cigarette smoking. >> but working for papers friday night 630 your editor says two questions. but nobody says that's a fact.
to say is this real? it is a wonderful process. but there is no process like that. >> i don't know anybody what they do. >> ayn rand. [laughter] >> the objective this is leave something on the table available where everybody buys books. [laughter] that one of the messages i found urgent to deliver of
what they have played to build communities and cities and at one time the largest circulation in the south from texas tech university to businesses were influenced by that individual. so that's also a story of america of citizen kane's message and a very funny guy and we were talking about citizen kane i haven't seen that. [laughter] but if you believe that i have a bridge to sell you.
>> have you heard the obsession with that crazy baseball team. it is a religion and apparently that drives people. i wonder about these things. >> look. we do a weekly rundown of the ten largest highest rated shows on television and on cable. over the course of a yea year, dominated by the nfl games the academy awards and nfl with incredible
consistency. but now. the line that hannity and rachel maddow highest rated shows of the week on cable but sports is tolerable. and people learn from sports you learn something about teamwork and honesty our lives can be pretty complicated. it's fun for me to come home and watch the dallas cowboys from what i love to do so it's like a religion. >> some of our colleagues are here today getting into television 1948 but in the
mid- eighties that made them big and bigger with acquisitions with kansas city and boston. and we had three stations one from each network so we started to scour the country and for a time that we moved up to the limits quickly to acquire the properties of the abc affiliate that is the biggest nonnetwork owned station as crime used to be
and it's not the same as it once was but absolutely we had to go there and we hired them to come with us is that a good place to spend our money and you can imagine i got some looks from the print establishment and that was by starting television stations and then the broadcasters were ready to lynch me. [laughter] but it all worked and now we are all on the same page but that succession of dayton kansas city boston and then we were buying stations close and then they overlapped from the technical standpoint by love
and they come into those markets and then watching them. that's one of the great stories. >> this is great. >> you wouldn't believe the pressure. and they get some carnival line crew ship and the toilets are overflowing. they don't ever get off that story now they are on to impeachment. every night not just one or
two but all this bits of news that you talk about i have to tell you they cannot get enough. they want a fire hydrant in their mouth. [laughter] we actually thought that would calm down some. we knew this would go one but of course it isn't lost on us and i am guilty because if she stays she hollers at the television. >> and then do radio it's harder to get on television that then you have to refresh every two hours.
but now it is every second unlike anything i have ever seen. he belongs there are. and this election will be crazy again. i hope are not that divided whoever wins. >> perish the thought i remember at least one governor he or his wife would not leave the governor's mansion after losing the election. i hope it's not something like that to have a change of government and they won't leave. [laughter] >> what if we had states and the results are not clear. >> thank you.
and the people are separate in our government the power always comes from the people and that document is designed to hand out a job description for congress and the executive branch. but all of us who have had jobs not consequences to violate the job description there is a consequence because the institution can't function with that bad action so it is a piece of paper to the extent that we force it you renovate the bathroom you put on a deposit then they walk off. they get to keep the money.