TV Networks’ Casting Call – 80s Style

With the seemingly constant shift in digital strategies from the TV networks and studios, keeping track of who’s doing what can be confusing. So in order to explain their moves, we decided to match them to something we can all love and relate to — characters from 80s movies.

Viacom (VIA) is clearly Principal Richard Vernon from The Breakfast Club. It locks content up on its site, away from the rest of the world, just like Vernon detained Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez in the school library and blocked the fire exits. Viacom also solves problems by force, and spends much of its time running after high schoolers, almost obsessively. Heck, even Viacom’s splintered-niche site strategy is about recognizing “the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess and the criminal.” C’mon, Viacom — lighten up. (Full disclosure: I used to work for Viacom.)

CBS (CBS) is Ferris Bueller. Fast becoming the popular kid by building its own digital distribution platform and cutting deals to get its content up everywhere and with everyone. AOL (TWX), Microsoft (MSFT), CNET Networks (CNET), Comcast (CMCSA), Joost, Bebo, Brightcove, Netvibes, Sling Media, and now local TV and radio all love CBS (just as the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies and d-ckheads all adored Ferris). Plus, with all that dealmaking, CBS definitely deserves a day off.

With their pie-in-the-sky dreams of creating a killer video-sharing site, GE’s (GE) NBC and News Corp.’s (NWS) FOX are Fast Times at Ridgemont High‘s Jeff Spicoli. They’ll talk a big game about how Hulu will be awesome, but right now its plans are like so much smoke billowing out of the back of a VW van. And after the abomination that is NBC’s DotComedy, I can imagine the conference call with FOX to set up Hulu went something like: “Relax, alright? My old man’s a television repairman, he’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.”

ABC (DIS) is the band of “Wolverines” in Red Dawn. Filled with young pride, ABC believed it could take on the world all by itself. But it quickly realized that it needed some help, so it’s working to establish its own digital distribution partners like Comcast, AOL and MySpace. But just as Patrick Swayze did with the Wolverines, ABC is insisting that its player be at the center of any digital partnership, and isn’t ready to give up all control yet.

Sure, Warner Bros. (TWX) was a little late to the game, but you gotta admire its Warner 2.0 strategy; like Lloyd Dobbler from Say Anything, it’s making its own way in the world. And in much the same way as Lloyd impressed the pretty, brainy, Diane Cort, the studio is trying to win you over by showing you a completely different side of itself. A side more sensitive to what you want. And just as Lloyd believed in kick-boxing as “the sport of the future,” Warner sees original production as its path to the future.

Speaking of the future…

While HBO may be the king of quality television, its digital efforts have sputtered. Think of HBO as Crispin Glover’s George McFly in Back to the Futurebefore Marty went back in time. HBO’s visionary storytelling is flummoxed by its utter lack of ability to woo an audience (just as George could write best-selling novels, but couldn’t land a date with Lorraine). Whether it’s the now-defunct This Just In, or the HBO Voyeur — which no one seems to be spying on — or the awkward, the company can’t find it’s online density destiny.

What do you think? Which 80s movie character best personifies your favorite TV network or content company? Which 80s character best personifies NewTeeVee? Hit us with a comment and let us know what you think.

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