The Power of Storytelling: Plotting The Future of Media

A couple of years into my first job in the PR industry, my boss, a high-powered, high-strung entertainment PR icon asked if I would mind having lunch with a young woman friend of his who had recently been tapped to handle PR chores for the nascent Museum of Broadcasting on East 53rd Street in New York City.

William S. Paley
William S. Paley

She hadn’t previously worked in the business, and needed some basic pointers on how to generate media coverage for this first-of-a-kind “museum,” which was founded by CBS Television patriarch William S. Paley as an historic repository of every radio and TV news and entertainment program from the dawn of broadcasting to the present. The museum allowed anyone to don a pair of headphones in a private cubicle to listen to or view “Amos & Andy,” “Ed Sullivan,” “Laugh In,” Edward R. Murrow, you name it.

That fateful lunch turned into a monthly ritual spanning a year at the Rendezvous Restaurant in the Omni Berkshire Hotel. One day my friend invited me to attend a private screening of her “brother’s new film.” Who’s your brother?” I asked. “Woody Allen.” Seriously???

Cast of "24" during The 20th Anniversary William S. Paley Television Festival Presents "24" at Director's Guild Theater Complex in West Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage)
Cast of “24” during The 20th Anniversary William S. Paley Television Festival Presents “24” at Director’s Guild Theater Complex in West Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage)

I kept in touch with Letty for a bit, but also kept tabs on the Museum, which in 1991 changed its name to The Museum of Television and Radio. Four years later, it moved to an expansive new location on East 52nd Street with state-of-the-art screening rooms, an auditorium, and the capacity to house the largest collection of TV, radio and web programming anywhere. In 1996, the Museum of Television & Radio opened a sister location in Los Angeles, and in 2007 was formally renamed The Paley Center for Media.

This month the Center invited me to attend two events in New York: a breakfast talk featuring CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter (for whom I had done some work when he toiled at The New York Times), and MediaREDEF‘s Jason Hirschhorn who has a storied history in the digital entertainment biz. For a sense of where the TV industry is headed, watch the repartee between Stelter and Hirschhorn below:


I also attended the annual Paley International Council Summit where a who’s who of media luminaries gathered to offer their insider perspectives on the digitally disrupted and wholesale realignment of the media industries. The two-day conference was aptly titled “The Power of Storytelling: Plotting the Future of Media.”

the-paley-center-for-media-logo__130912173833Here’s a link to a photo and my tweets from the first day of the Summit (courtesy of Eventifier). To give you a sense of the Summit’s breadth, its bold-faced names included HBO chairman/CEO Richard Plepler, Vox Media’s chairman/CEO Jim Bankoff, Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti, Yahoo! News’ Katie Couric, BET’s Debra Lee, Mic’s Jake Horowitz, Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles, Food & Wine editor Dana Corwin, Disney “Frozen’s” producer Peter Del Vecho, “Top Chef’s” Padma Lakshmi, Norman Lear, Facebook’s Dan Rose, Interpublic’ Michael Roth, Oculus Rift’s Jason Rubin, Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick, Vice Media founder Suroosh Alvi, AMC president/CEO Josh Sapan, Ingenious chairman’ John Miller, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, former NBA commish David Stern, and the list goes on.

I was especially enamored with Richard Plepler’s take on HBO’s recent announcement to offer its programming a la carte, and the prospect (or lack thereof) of cannibalizing existing cable subscribers, as well as Facebook’s Dan Rose’s vision for Oculus Rift, the platform’s first consumer VR device (from Samsung), and the imminent opening up of the platform to gaming and programming developers.  Also, I liked the music track “Frozen’s” Peter Del Vecho played that wound up not making it into the boffo hit film.

You can view the event videos here, starting with opening remarks from Hearst Corp’s Frank Bennack Jr., chairman of The Paley Center for Media, and Maureen Reedy, the Center’s president and CEO.