Meet Stephen Arnold, TV Music Man


Contributors: Linda Haugsted, Linda Moss.

Meet Stephen Arnold, TV Music Man

You don’t likely know Stephen Arnold, but you know his work. From his seven-acre studio complex and ranch outside Dallas, he composes the intros, interstitials and segment themes you hear on newscasts and other programming throughout the country.

He’s won an Emmy for compositions for Comcast and done ditties for Cable News Network, the National Geographic Channel, Home Box Office, ABC News and The WB, among hundreds of others.

So, does one aspire to become the “king of the bumpers”?

“No,” laughed Arnold. “I just fell into it.”

The Dallas native went to Los Angeles to “do the album thing” but couldn’t make a living. He returned to Dallas and started writing station jingles to make ends meet.

His first big cable gig was the “music package” for the then-nascent CNN/Sports Illustrated.

“There was a hefty budget for that one,” he said wistfully.

He’s in such demands for station IDs that he just notched his 300th station as a client.

So how come they don’t all sound alike?

“You develop a sixth sense for ways to interpret the network’s image and develop a 'sonic brand,’ ” he said, adding that he understands the underlying purpose of the music.

“It’s all about contributing to winning the [ratings] book,” he said.

Boyle’s 'Cabal’ Aiding Parents

Jim Boyle didn’t attend the Walter Kaitz Foundation dinner this year, but the former Discovery Communications Inc. PR master is doing his part to help Kaitz beneficiary The Emma L. Bowen Foundation for Minority Interests in Media anyway.

For about two years Boyle’s been chief of a trade association called College Parents of America, which he describes as an AARP for parents of kids of college age or younger. It tries to represent that often-forgotten group on such policy issues as the tax deductibility of tuition payments and limits on federally guaranteed student loans. And it aspires to be a clearinghouse of information on such things as scholarships — so its Web site ( is adding a link to the Emma Bowen Web site, because that organization operates a paid work-study program steering qualified minority students into media jobs. It’s also offering Emma Bowen parents CPA membership benefits free of charge.

About 2,400 families belong to CPA now, paying $36.50 a year. “Our marketing message is a dime a day, roughly what cable bills used to be when I started in the industry,” Boyle joked. Some 14,500 get free CPA e-letters.

The three full-time employees are all formerly of Discovery: Boyle, COO Tom Porter and vice president Favio Martinez. “There’s a kind of Discovery cabal over here,” as Boyle said.

We knew there had to be one somewhere.

Eschewing Bright Lights of Publicity

Cable producers have had success filling the insatiable maw of the programming day by reaching into the vaults of public record to relive crimes big and small.

But that trend could be chilled, based on a case recently argued before the California state Supreme Court. The petitioner, Steve Gates, sued Discovery Channel and the producer of The Prosecutors, New Dominion Pictures, arguing their rehash of a case in which he was involved amounts to invasion of privacy.

An episode of the program focused on a 13-year-old murder in San Diego County. The owner of a car dealership there was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill one of the salesmen, in retaliation for the worker’s lawsuit alleging the dealership’s owners cheated the salesman out of commissions.

Gates was convicted, too, for providing an alibi for the dealership owner. Gates spent 13 months in prison.

In the Discovery suit, Gates argues that he has spent his time since his incarceration trying to rebuild his life and is no longer a public figure. Discovery attorneys, backed by media lawyers, asserted in arguments before the court last week that public records are publishable no matter how old they are.

A decision is expected within 90 days.

Divney’s Back, But Did He Ever Leave?

Larry Divney’s return to MTV Networks as chief operating officer of ad sales, after a four-month “retirement” from Comedy Central, was the surprising part of last week’s MTVN’s senior staffing news. Then again, his buddies and colleagues have been predicting all along he wouldn’t stay away.

Case in point: during a well-attended roast of Divney in April, his boss and pal, Viacom Inc. co-president Tom Freston, declared: “We’re going to miss you and I’ve got a funny feeling that all of us are going to get to ride with you again.”

At a “Divney Goodbye Tour” farewell party in June, Comedy Central executive vide president of ad sales Hank Close opined that “Larry Divney is the Michael Jordan of the media,” predicting a short retirement for the popular executive.

Close was right on target, but Freston’s prophecy might well have had the advantage of being self fulfilling.

Are You Ready For Some HDTV?

FCC chairman Michael Powell got some national TV time during halftime of the Kansas City Chiefs-Baltimore Ravens Monday Night Football game on ABC last week. He talked up HDTV transition to ABC Sports reporter Michele Tafoya (l.) as part of the agency’s latest HD-awareness push. “It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever got to do,” he said.