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Puck welcomes John Heilemann as its Chief Political Columnist!

The Iger Mini-Gamble

Photo: Lionel Hahn/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
August 9, 2023

The late-stage era of linear television, as my dedicated readers well know, was never going to be pretty. It’s hard to be ambitious when the pay is smaller, the mandate is bloodletting, and everyone is secretly planning for their next act. But it can be dispiriting to look out across the vast linear landscape as the biggest players foreshadow the gloom of the future through rabid belt-tightening (“capital optimization”!) and similar tactics that suggest there are no easy solutions amid the inter-era turbulence. 

We live in a complex moment, after all—one where HBO is absorbed into Max, CNN’s cord-cutting play is aborted and its programming strategy relies on a do-more-with-less grit, Showtime’s own direct-to-consumer play is folded into Paramount, itself a historic collection of media assets with a market cap of just $10.3 billion. And yet few moves have stirred the collective anxieties of the industry more than Bob Iger’s candid CNBC interview, early this summer, during which he conveyed an openness, if not an alacrity, to finding a strategic partner for ESPN.