My Real Hidden Agenda: To Make “Good” Shows

by Norman Horowitz

In the early ’60s, I learned a business lesson that was either very valuable or very harmful. It’s fifty years later, and I’m still not sure.

Our Canadian company had produced a very charming five-minute children’s program titled “Pick a Letter, (PAL)” In the series, animator George Feyer would tell a story through drawings, starting with letters of the alphabet. With some sort of rear-screen drawing technique, they would present letters like “B is for Butterfly.”

At the time, my major sales responsibilities were limited to the gigantic markets of Curacao, Aruba, and Bermuda, as well as other small stations that no one wanted to bother with. However, since no one in our domestic sales group showed the least bit of interest in showing PAL to U.S. stations, I asked and received permission to show it to the independent New York stations.

Following the screening of three five-minute segments, the Program Director of Channel 11 in New York told me how much he liked the program. I became elated…until he told me that he had no interest in buying it. He went on to say — and it was very nice of him — that he was in the business of attracting as large an audience as possible and that, if he played PAL in a morning program, the kids in his audience would switch to another channel that was playing cartoons.

“Norman,” he said, “kids have a shit detector. If they ever have the sense that you’re trying to teach them something, they’ll change the station at once.”   Continue reading “My Real Hidden Agenda: To Make “Good” Shows”