When comedian Jon Lovitz heard that a Florida television production company was pitching him as host of a new ABC News show, it was news to him. Lovitz on Monday categorically denied any involvement with, or knowledge of, the project, the production company or any of its principals.
In an article written by this reporter on Monday, Sep. 23 it was reported that ABC News President, Ben Sherwood, was pitched a politically-charged news show by Fort Lauderdale-based Nothing Really Matters Productions (NRM), and that NRM had floated Lovitz’s name as a potential host. The show was rejected out-of-hand by Sherwood and prompted Lovitz fans to start a petition drive to get Lovitz an ABC News show.
But the real news, according to Lovitz’s manager Charles Binder, was that NRM had never bothered to contact him or Jon about the show.
“We don’t know anything about this or Nothing Really Matters Productions,” said an emphatic Binder in an email to ventwing.com. “They have never talked to us about a new show. Mr. Lovitz has never heard of them [NRM] or this show.”
Binder said that NRM should have known better than to pitch talent for a show without first getting permission from the performer or their manager.
“The industry standard is a production company cannot pitch an actors [sic] name without getting permission,” he said. “NRM, as a production company should know this.”
NRM President of TV Media Robert Vedder takes issue with Binder’s assessment and adamantly defends his company’s right to “float a talent’s name” without first asking permission.
“There is no law, or even biding TV industry standard that says we can’t propose talent to a TV network without first speaking to the talent or their manager,” said Vedder. “We often pitch this way. If a TV network likes our pitch and choice of talent, we then go to the talent with a tentative deal in place. The talent can always refuse our offer.”
According to one media industry executive, both Binder and Vedder have valid points.
“While it’s the norm to first get TV talent on-board for a media pitch, it’s not cast in stone,” says David Leone, director of media at JSP Productions, a production company in Texas. “There’s obviously more risk just to float a name, but in the media world it’s not really unethical.”
ABC News President Ben Sherwood didn’t seem to care whether or not Lovitz and Binder knew about the pitch because the proposed news show was not going to happen in any event, according to one source at ABC News. Whether the lack of interest was due to the proposed host, the show format and/or the manner of pitching, ABC News wouldn’t say. In fact, ABC News wouldn’t say anything substantive about the matter at all.
“No comment,” said ABC News Executive Vice President, Jeffery Schneider. When asked for an on the record statement, Schneider persisted that any comments he made would be “off the record.”
After the original story ran on Sep. 23, Schneider was incensed that ventwing.com would make an issue out of ABC’s reticence and unwillingness to make an on the record comment on the Lovitz story. Schneider emailed this reporter what was nothing less than a personal attack on me, concluding that ventwing.com should “retract” its previous story on the ABC News show pitch.
“Seems to me you facilitated all this nonsense … and made fun of me in your story,” said a clearly agitated Schneider in his email. “So I’m glad I had no comment them [sic] or now.”
Schneider’s meltdown seemed at odds with his ABC News duties to steer the network’s public relations ship with a steady hand and a cool head. His boss, ABC News President Ben Sherwood, to whom NMR originally sent the Lovitz show pitch, seems content to sit back and let his public relations lapdog make the news for all the wrong reasons.
It appears the news show that was indeed news to Lovitz and his manager, is bad news for Sherwood and Schneider. And that’s on the record.