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ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. — Seldom do television's mainstream media report on franchising in its truest form. I'm not talking about programs such as Undercover Boss, where executives disguise themselves as workers to investigate how their operations are doing. I'm talking about investigative reporting where senior executives and franchisees, present and former, are interviewed so that viewers can see the true picture of a franchise system.
A year ago this month, CNBC aired Behind the Counter: The Untold Story on Franchising, catching the franchise community somewhat by surprise. CNBC did exactly what it set out to do: it gave television viewers a rare glimpse into the true world of franchising, with all its glory and shame.
Reporter Darren Rovell went further than other newspaper and business reporters in telling the fascinating stories behind three popular brands: Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Procter & Gamble's Tide Dry Cleaners and Mr. Clean Car Wash franchises, and Dunkin' Donuts' second- and third-generation owners. The hour-long documentary went farther than most media would have dared to have gone. It shone the light on two troubled systems, Camp Bow Wow doggy daycare and Cold Stone Creamery, interviewing franchise owners who had lost their investments. It also presented pertinent questions to a representative of the Federal Trade Commission, the governing body of the Franchise Rule.
What's surprising is the breadth of reporting skills, focus and boldness behind Rovell, whom most people know as CNBC's sports business reporter. Before Behind the Counter: The Untold Story on Franchising, Rovell investigated and reported in the documentary "Swoosh! Inside Nike," which was nominated for an Emmy. The young reporter, who in 2004 and 2007 was named to Newsbios "30 under 30," a list of the top 30 national business reporters under the age of 30, won an Emmy not for his reporting on a sports franchise business, nor for his investigation into multinational sports companies, as one might expect, but for his contribution to something entirely different — the presidential election of 2008.
That's journalism range! And that skill was brought to bear on the complex issues of franchising in a way no one else has. Rovell went beyond the noise, hype and smoke that sidetrack many other reporters, franchise buyers and even experts.
Rovell tells Blue MauMau readers that he is proud of the work that his CNBC team put into The Untold Story of Franchising. "I loved delving into the franchise business," he states. "It is truly one of the most complex business models I've ever seen, yet it has a reputation as being one of the easiest."