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Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way [Kindle Edition]

Ken Auletta
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $23.00
Kindle Price: $18.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

What happened to network television in the 1980s? How did CBS, NBC, and ABC lose a third of their audience and more than half of their annual profits?

Ken Auletta, author of Greed and Glory on Wall Street, tells the gripping story of the decline of the networks in this epically scaled work of journalism. He chronicles the takeovers and executive coups that turned ABC and NBC into assets of two mega-corporations and CBS into the fiefdom of one man, Larry Tisch, whose obsession with the bottom line could be both bracing and appalling.

Auletta takes us inside the CBS newsroom on the night that Dan Rather went off-camera for six deadly minutes; into the screening rooms where NBC programming wunderkind Brandon Tartikoff watched two of his brightest prospects for new series thud disastrously to earth; and into the boardrooms where the three networks were trying to decide whether television is a public trust or a cash cow.

Rich in anecdote and gossip, scalpel-sharp in its perceptions, Three Blind Mice chronicles a revolution in American business and popular culture, one that is changing the world on both sides of the television screen.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In 1986, all three of the major TV networks were taken over by new owners: ABC by Capital Cities; CBS by financiers Larry and Bob Tisch; NBC by General Electric. The resultant upheavals--management power plays, losses of thousands of staff jobs--have been crafted into a truly dramatic book by Auletta, a highly regarded business reporter ( Greed and Glory on Wall Street , LJ 2/15/86). Given entry to executive suites and board meetings, Auletta has acquired exclusive, first-hand knowledge of the trauma of change in a medium that affects every American family. Government regulations, prohibiting the networks from owning production studios and sharing in the fiscal bonanza of syndication, threaten their very survival, the author contends. An important book, highly recommended to all libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/91.
- Chet Hagan, Berks Cty. P.L. System, Pa.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

As in his Greed and Glory on Wall Street (1986), here Auletta offers a behind-the-scenes account of a clash of corporate cultures, manifested in formidable egos fighting over turf. The battlegrounds are ABC, NBC, and CBS, which, beginning in the mid- 1980's, went through five years of wrenching change occasioned by technology and takeovers. Since 1976, the three major networks have lost one out of three viewers because of cable, video, satellite, increasingly independent affiliates, and the upstart Fox network. Starting in 1986, the Big Three's proud but complacent old guard of newscasters and entertainment programmers were administered shock treatment by their tightfisted new bosses: Lowes' Larry Tisch at CBS, GE's Jack Welch and Bob Wright at NBC, and Capital Cities' Tom Murphy and Dan Burke at ABC. Despite differences in strategy and managerial style, Auletta demonstrates, the networks thereafter became engaged in ``the same struggles between public versus shareholder responsibility, the same almost religious conflict between old and new values.'' Yet, except for several vividly drawn episodes (e.g., a skirmish between Brandon Stoddard and Roone Arledge, heads of entertainment and news, respectively, at ABC, over the scheduling of 20-20), Auletta seems to have drained this material of pungency, perhaps because of his unusual access (1,500 interviews with over 350 people) and his admirable objectivity. Moreover, the narrative seems hastily cobbled together, both in terms of overall organization and line editing (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., was not ``Dynasty's male lead''). A conscientious but weak attempt to show how, amid the ``new video democracy'' enjoyed by viewers, the three networks squirmed on their thrones. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1155 KB
  • Print Length: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 6, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004478ASY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,236 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Having worked a good portion of my life in 'local' television, it was most interesting to read about the so-called big boys of the networks. Anyone who has spent hours watching the 'tube' should get a real kick out of this. With all the egos involved, its amazing that there were no more bodies being loaded outside their headquarters daily. Ken Auletta had some marvelous sources to get so many things to write about. Somehow I know television will continue to survive despite some of the dim-wits who run things. I kept reading the book looking for solid broadcasters----there are many, but I was amazed at how little some of the bigger names failed to measure up. I am planning to read the book for a second time. Surely some of the big guys didn't say and do some of the things reported by Auletta. Now lets just make sure Peter Jennings tie looks nice, his head cocked just right and his million dollar smile continues to remind of his four marriages and his need for a personal pacifier. Right on Ken Auletta.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Journalistically Insightful August 28, 2003
This is a snapshot of what happens when companies become too large and lose touch with changing demands in the marketplace. While this snapshot was taken a few years ago, its lessons are still pertinent. The networks have subsequently made a few changes, but the landscape in telecommunications remains unpredictable. For a reader interested in media history, the philosophical stance of various network executives is covered pretty well in narrative form. Since the book came out at the end of Brandon Tartikoff's successful programming ventures, a significant amount of the book is devoted to his style of management. Auletta identifies five dominant powers influencing the telecommunications industry: the networks, cable, independent and affiliated stations, the Hollywood studios, and the telephone companies. This book is well-researched and written. It provides insightful analysis and commentatary on the condition of the fifth estate as it was at the end of the 20th century.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good look at a tumultuous time in TV history June 19, 1998
If you have any interest in business, regulation, or mass media, this is a good book for you. Auletta takes his readers on a fascinating trip into the boardrooms of the three major American TV networks as they struggle through new ownership and invigorated competition. You will almost feel as if you are right there, and this book is quite suspenseful throughout. You'll get to know the major TV producers and network presidents, and you will swear you were actually in New York when these decisions were made in the late 1980's. _Three Blind Mice_ is well researched, and Auletta is careful to note what is speculation and what is fact. He has done a masterful job with the book, and I would encourage anyone to read it. Do not be put off by its length, for it is a wonderful, moving true tale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An insider's account to network TV March 18, 1999
By A Customer
An intriguing book for anyone interested in the volatile business of network television. Auletta clearly had inside access to the major players at the big three networks when all of them were changing hands during the mid 1980s. Auletta's account does a fine job of examining each network's unique culture, which could clearly be traced to the men in charge. The book details the inner workings of each network's news and entertainment divisions, and the uphill battle for viewers in a new era of competition. The first chapter includes an interesting story, followed by a keen analysis. The rest of the book continues that pattern.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Single greatest book on TV ever written... November 24, 1998
By A Customer
If you are at interested in TV or the entertainment business, this is the first book to read. It is an extraordinary read. It is a bit dated now, but don't let that deter you. Auletta is an excellent writer and shows it here. It is long, but is as engrossing as any novel. With apologies to Bill Carter whose Late Shift is awesome, this is the 1 book to read if you want to learn about TV.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and Detailed May 26, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Three Blind Mice is a very comprehensive look at the network television business from 1984 to 1991. During this time the monopoly that network television enjoyed for several decades came to an end. The three networks share of viewers dropped from 90% to 65%. Viewers had many more choices due to the growth of cable channels. On the business side the networks became part of larger companies or investors with more than television on their minds and hearts. The corporate culture invaded the two sides of network tv - news and entertainment, both of which felt they were not governed by the rules of business.

Ken Auletta writes in great narrative style as if he is and in many cases was in the room. He get's into the hearts and minds of the three leaders that are central to the story - Larry Tisch with CBS, Tom Murphy with ABC and Bob Wright with NBC. He does well to show their contrasting leadership styles and how they positively and negatively impacted their organizations. All three came in with strong preconceived ideas of what was woring with the business. However in the end the business changed them more than the other way around. He details the process of upfront advertising sales, the relationships with affiliate stations, and the nuance of programming/scheduling prime time through interesting narrative. Finally he shows great vision for the future that came after the Fin-Syn rules are dropped allowing networks and companies owning networks to own programming and sell to other networks.
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More About the Author

Ken Auletta has written the Annals of Communications column for The New Yorker since 1992. He is the author of eight books, including THREE BLIND MICE: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way; GREED AND GLORY ON WALL STREET: The Fall of The House of Lehman; and WORLD WAR 3.0: Microsoft and Its Enemies. In naming him America's premier media critic, the Columbia Journalism Review said, "no other reporter has covered the new communications revolution as thoroughly as has Auletta." He lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter.

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