Why Newscasters Have Become Hot Clients for Hollywood Talent Agencies
"More people are watching the news than we've seen in a long time," says UTA's Jay Sures as on-air pundits gain increasing relevance (and business opportunities) in the Trump era.
In a media climate dominated by cable news scuffles and morning show shuffles, TV's talking heads have become coveted clients for Hollywood agencies.
Anchors' deals may appear relatively modest compared to those of, say, a Big Bang Theory castmember (though some come close — Megyn Kelly is poised to become TV's highest-paid female anchor with an NBC News contract reportedly worth $18 million a year, nearly matching Matt Lauer's Today deal), but their increasing relevance in the Trump-era zeitgeist provides potential entree into media and political circles for agents as well as an increasing array of business and brand-expanding opportunities, from penning books to setting up their own production companies.
"Newscasters have become more central to our culture than ever before because more people are watching the news than we've seen in a long time," says Jay Sures, managing director at UTA, which acquired news powerhouse N.S. Bienstock in 2014 to claim a big share of the market (Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper are clients). ICM Partners made a similar move in February, acquiring boutique Headline Media Management in order to launch a broadcast division. "Agencies pay attention in the marketplace to anything that captures the public's imagination," says ICM founding partner and board member Ted Chervin.
"The business is blossoming, and people are looking all over the place for interesting ideas," agrees WME partner and nonscripted TV co-head Jon Rosen, whose clients include Van Jones. "It's a unique business that requires a certain amount of expertise, and we're fortunate that we have a team that's been immersed in it their entire careers."
And as the public's continuing fascination with politics keeps on-air pundits employed, "there's fierce competition for high-end talent that cuts through the clutter," says Jeff Jacobs, co-head of television at CAA, which represents Kelly. But WME partner Henry Reisch cautions discernment: "The trick is identifying the people that we can build into a larger presence."
This story first appeared in the April 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.