Is NBC About to Go Bankrupt?
The ailing TV network is making a desperate attempt at salvaging its remains. But cancelled shows, lackluster pilots and management's desperate remarks are pointing to the company's imminent demise.
According to the New York Post, Ted Harbert -- the broadcasting chief of the Comcast-owned (NASDAQ: CMCSA) NBC -- has "urged" the industry to "adopt new ratings that account for more DVR playback as a growing number of viewers record shows and watch them later."
This is a hilariously ironic request. Here we have a network that just axed one of its most promising new shows, Awake, because it couldn't muster more than a few million weekly viewers and failed to capture a significant portion of the coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic. The network also cancelled Harry's Law, which scored some of the highest Sunday night ratings of any network -- nearly eight million on average, a number NBC rarely achieves -- because it also failed to satisfy the 18-49 demographic.
Now Harbert wants the TV business to shift from analyzing just three days of DVR playback (as it currently does) and account for as many as seven days of DVR playback.
Why, Ted? Why?
Would NBC shows suddenly become more popular? Would the network have chosen not to cancel its shows if four additional days of DVR playback were thrown into the mix? Harbert seems to have forgotten the fact that NBC isn't the only network whose ratings go up on DVR playback data. The reality is that a lot of shows are watched after the fact, including the hugely popular Hawaii Five-O, one of many hit CBS (NYSE: CBS) dramas. If NBC benefited from extended DVR data, other networks would as well.
Speaking of Hawaii Five-O, few viewers realize that when the just-cancelled Harry's Law aired on the same night as the CBS drama, it proved to be fierce competitor. Thus, NBC did what it always does and moved the show from Monday to Sunday, where the ratings dropped but were still pretty awesome (by NBC standards, at least). But would the network give Harry a chance to boost its ratings -- or, perhaps, the aforementioned demographic -- and see what happens? Nope.
It should be noted that Harry's Law is one of the only shows that isn't available to watch anywhere but on NBC. You can't watch it online, you can't download it from iTunes, and you can't buy it on DVD. Thus, if you miss an episode, you're screwed. In a day and age where multiple viewing formats reign supreme, NBC has no one but itself to blame when a show fails.
It should also be said that when a network (any network) gives a quality show a fair chance at success, it usually works. Granted, this was not the case with Chuck, a triple-A show that by some miracle lasted five seasons. But in most cases, if a network keeps a good show on the air (and offers multiple viewing options, including but not limited to DVD, summer re-runs, and digital distribution), its viewership will grow over time.
Unfortunately, NBC is never going to get the ratings it desires. Since Friends ended in 2004, viewers have steadily moved away from NBC. Those who haven't given up on the network are becoming increasingly fearful of watching new shows because they know that the odds of them being cancelled are very high. While fans of Chuck may have been rewarded for their dedication, the same cannot be said for other NBC viewers. More often than not, they get screwed.
Among its lineup of scripted sitcoms and dramas, NBC cancelled nine shows -- almost as many as the network renewed! Of those nine shows, eight were brand-new during the 2011-2012 season. Only four new shows -- Grimm, Smash, Whitney and Up All Night -- were saved.
Meanwhile, NBC is doing everything it can to ruin some of its most successful shows, including The Office and 30 Rock. The latter has been going downhill since the 2010-2011 season, both in terms of quality and ratings. 30 Rock, on the other hand, was a triple-A comedy with decent ratings until NBC decided to mess with its timeslot. In the 10pm hour, 30 Rock lost a ton of viewers. Network execs might have thought that the ratings would greatly improve once NBC moved 30 Rock back to a more reasonable timeslot, but that has not been the case.
One can only imagine what the network will do to the likes of Smash, Parenthood, Grimm, and Law & Order: SVU in the coming months.
Whatever it does, it will likely involve a convoluted schedule change, a cluster of new shows that no one will watch, an additional slate of cancellations, and more money down the toilet.
Tell me again why Comcast bought this soon-to-be-extinct TV network?
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