Tweets Have Consequences And Principles Have A Cost
The biggest news in entertainment yesterday was undoubtedly Roseanne Barr’s tweet and the subsequent fallout. I’m not going to get into the details of Barr’s tweet or the moral issues involved – you can find hundreds of articles about that part if you want. Instead I want to focus on the media industry’s swift reaction and what it says about our business.
First consider the responses of Roseanne’s business partners and the personal impact those had. Within hours of the tweet ABC cancelled season two of the Roseanne revival and Ms. Barr’s talent agency ICM Partners dropped her as a client. While you could argue that this swift justice was completely deserved for Roseanne, it also created a ripple effect for hundreds of actors and production crew members who are suddenly out of plum jobs for the upcoming season. I’m guessing Roseanne wasn’t thinking about her coworkers’ well being when she pressed send.
Then think about the impact on ad revenue for ABC. Just three weeks ago Roseanne was rolled out as the centerpiece of the network’s upcoming Fall lineup. With :30 network ads priced in the $300-400K range you can imagine how many tens of millions of dollars ABC voluntarily walked away from by cancelling the show. In the past I’ve been critical of networks like Fox News bowing to advertiser pressure on decisions related to programming, but this is the opposite situation. Instead of gaging sponsor backlash before deciding what to do with the show, ABC led with a principle over revenue decision. Whether you agree with the outcome or not you have to admire the fortitude it took to make this call.
So what are the takeaways from all of this? First, what you post on social media has real consequences. This is a lesson every teenager already knows, but appears to be something Roseanne Barr, a self-proclaimed social neophyte, found out the hard way yesterday. And second, even money-hungry TV networks will sometimes rise above the bottom line to stand on principle despite the cost. Regardless of your opinion about what happened yesterday, these are important observations to carry forward.