NBC may be adding another politician to its lineup. Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is in talks about hosting a prime-time talk show for the struggling MSNBC cable news network.
The pro wrestler turned politician has met with MSNBC President Erik Sorenson and with NBC News President Neal Shapiro about hosting a daily one-hour MSNBC show in which the day's headlines are dissected and the media picked apart, sources close to the talks report.
"We look at lots of ideas for programming but don't comment until we have something to announce," an MSNBC rep told The TV Column yesterday.
Since announcing last summer that he would not seek reelection, Ventura has hinted that he has a job lined up after leaving office, possibly in the news media.
"You never quit a job unless you have a job," he said in August on Minnesota Public Radio's "Midday" show, adding "a year from now I'll be more dangerous than I am now as governor."
But unlike Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), who apparently overcame whatever qualms he might have had about joining "Law & Order" (produced by Universal Television and broadcast by GE-owned NBC) while still a sitting senator, Ventura, an independent, said he would not join MSNBC until his term ends Jan. 6. It's possible he may not make a decision until after leaving office.
"He originally said he was going to make an announcement in November but told me about a week or 10 days ago that he would wait until January to announce what he was doing after his term was up," Ventura spokesman John Wodele told The TV Column. He declined to comment on the reports that the governor is heading to NBC.
NBC is not the only media conglom where Ventura reps have held talks. At one media outlet, according to one informed source, Ventura's rep wanted to discuss not only a cable program but also a syndicated show and a publishing deal.
Under such an arrangement, NBC, for instance, could use Ventura on MSNBC, have him guest on other NBC programs and put him in a syndicated strip, much as it has done with MSNBC's most watched show host, Chris Matthews.
Ventura's people also spoke to CNN, which is owned by AOL Time Warner, and to Fox News Channel, owned by News Corp. Both parent companies also have syndication divisions and own publishing houses.
A Fox News Channel spokesman declined to comment. A CNN executive confirmed that a Ventura rep approached the cable news network as recently as a couple months ago to inquire whether it was interested in adding Ventura to its roster. "We did not think he was good fit, though we love having him on as a guest," the exec said.
Word of Ventura's talks with MSNBC leaked out Tuesday during the swearing-in of Sen. Dean Barkley, whom Ventura appointed to fill the term of the late Paul Wellstone.
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Barkley, chatting with Vice President Cheney before the ceremony, was overheard saying of Ventura: "He's a very interesting man. I think he's got a syndicated talk show on MSNBC. He lands on his feet."
Ventura was on NBC's payroll once already while in office. Last year he became a commentator for the ill-fated XFL football venture between NBC and Ventura's old boss, the World Wrestling Federation, now World Wrestling Entertainment.
Ventura has been a popular guest on Matthews's "Hardball," three times as his sole guest. Most recently, he was the only guest during Matthews's series of college campus visits.
Ventura's appearance averaged 763,000 viewers, which was the largest audience for any of the "Hardball" campus visits.
During that Sept. 18 program, Matthews asked Ventura what he was going to do next, adding, "and tell us the truth."
Responded the former wrestler: "I'm going back in the ring . . . I just got to work out for three more years to get back there."
ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox made a last-ditch attempt last night to block the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences from moving the Primetime Emmys show to HBO, which has offered to pay a whopping $10 million a year for the rights.
Executives from the four major broadcast networks were scheduled to make an offer of $5 million a year to continue taking turns telecasting the annual TV trophy show. The academy's board of governors already had planned to meet last night to ratify HBO's offer of $50 million for exclusive rights to the awards show for the next five years.
The broadcasters, who for weeks had been stonewalling with an offer to up their current puny $3 million annual license fee to $3.5 million, were stunned when word of the HBO offer got out.
The TV academy, in turn, was rocked when the broadcast networks responded by threatening to boycott the ceremony if it bolted to HBO.
"They are freaked out over the possibility," said one industry source.
Several networks have indicated they will do everything they can to prevent clips of their shows from being made available for the program and will try to dissuade their stars from attending the ceremony. And what with most ABC shows, for example, produced by ABC parent Disney, many NBC shows produced by NBC Studios, etc., if a network wants its shows' clips withheld from the Primetime Emmy ceremony, it need only make a well-placed call to itself.
Broadcasters also have indicated that they would aggressively counterprogram an HBO Emmy telecast.
The broadcast networks are offering to continue to foot the bill to produce the show and shoulder all costs for marketing the franchise, as is HBO.
A number of industry execs contacted yesterday said that the board probably would make no decision last night, and that the academy may seek more time to consider the broadcast networks' eleventh-hour proposal. Many also said they would not be surprised to see a compromise in which HBO is added to the "wheel" system, making it a five-network rotation.
"They'll settle at 5 [million], and HBO will get into the rotation, which I'm guessing was the idea all along," one industry suit said. "I would not be surprised to find out there was collusion all along between [the academy] and HBO," he said, wondering why the pay-cable network would open with an offer for $10 million when the broadcasters were offering just $3.5 million.