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Why NBC…why?

I just haven’t been able to put my head around the NBC fiasco.

Yes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but let’s be honest. NBC has had problems one (Jeff Zucker) after another (Kevin Reilly) after a huge other (Ben Silverman) after another (Jeff Gaspin). Why NBC hasn’t figured out their problems is unreal, especially for a channel that has been dominance for two decades.

So what’s its problem? Is NBC even fixing its problems? Do they even know what their problems are? So far…not really. So here’s a list of problems I feel that NBC has to address, whether they have addressed them or not.

#1-Hiring from Within

For the last few NBC Entertainment Chairmen, they all had two things in common. 1) they thought they could get away with buying shows that were in-housed productions. Other networks do this as well (ABC does buy shows from ABC’s production house) but not to the extent of NBC during the early 2000s. But also, most of the chairmen (except Silverman) were promoted from within. From this, we can see that internal promotion has not done NBC well for the previous decade. So what can we do to fix it? Hire outside the firm. Which is what they did.

Robert Greenblatt

I introduce Robert Greenblatt, the former President of Entertainment at Showtime. Yes, his resume is pretty amazing from his tenure at the premium channel…no, seriously. Look them up. He’s actually done a pretty awesome job over there, which is why I was happy when NBC (well…really Comcast) announced him as the new chairman. However, guess who else developed amazing shows before their hirings? Ben Silverman and Jeff Gaspin. Both great producers of shows. Both not so great producers for NBC. Or maybe it’s a “Chairmen Curse”. Zucker left the chairmen position for a better position: starting his way towards becoming the CEO of NBC Universal. Kevin Reilly doesn’t miss his previous job: He’s now the President of FOX Entertainment, and has enjoyed being the #1 network in the prime demographics. Ben Silverman left the great television position to start his own company. So maybe it’s not the people….but the network? Doubt it…but it’s worth investigating later.

I have confidence that Greenblatt will turn the ship around; but so far, he hasn’t impressed anyone with this schedule which is already falling apart (longer than Gaspin).

#2-Setting Shows Up for Failure

Every time the new fall schedule gets released, I feel that all the networks start strong with their best shows in the fall (unless you’re FOX because you don’t have enough room, or NBC when you have a Super Bowl). And the last few years, I’ve always been dumbfounded by the scheduling decisions at NBC. But this year took the cake:

a) Why should ‘Prime Suspects’ be put at the previously-popular Thursday 10pm slot? And whose idea was it to put it on everyday (did Jay Leno teach us nothing?) And why isn’t Awake, a highly-acclaimed new drama, being broadcast right now when you have Prime Suspects being played practically every day? This isn’t Lifetime! This isn’t Showtime! We have other options! We have a ton of shows in mid-season to REPLACE canned shows.

b) ‘Free Agents’ would have been fine if you had put it on Thursdays. People know Christina Applegate and Will Arnett from ‘Up All Night’. No one knows Hank Azaria and Katheryn Hahn. It would have fit somewhere in that Thursday 9:30 slot (‘Whitney’ would have been a good mid-season replacement). Free Agents did not fit between Up All Night and ‘Harry’s Law’ (guarantee you that’s why Harry’s Law is so hurt right now).

 

c) I like ‘The Voice’. But after watching ‘The X Factor’ falling short of expectations, and with ‘American Idol’ returning this spring, I see singing competitions “overload” and it’s tiring audiences out. NBC should have captured that falling X Factor audience with The Voice, perhaps switched it with ‘The Sing-Off’. I know you have the Super Bowl…but 3 weeks later, people will be tired of singing competitions, even if it does beat American Idol. However, this judgement is forgivable. The Super Bowl is the Super Bowl.

d)  Oh yeah…and I called that Monday 10pm was the worst spot to put ‘The Playboy Club’…not that the whole show was a bad idea or anything. So NBC…hasn’t really learned anything on that end.

Extra) Betty White? Vodka; It’s Me, Chelsea? Is your selection committee just giving up on quality?

The only real things they did right was prolonging ‘Smash’ until mid-season and the ‘Biggest Loser’/’Parenthood’s timeslot. And I’ll toss them ‘Chuck’ and ‘Grimm’.

#3-Not Hitting the Panic Button

Many NBC executive have said they aren’t worried about the ratings. They know they’re in a bad spot and they’re working on getting a solution.

Bull. Crap.

It’s time to push that red button, vamp it up to Defcon 1, and start spending some grand amount of cash for great products. CBS can’t be the only network pumping out great hits consistently. I mean, think about it. CBS cancelled a show (How to Be A Gentlemen) with over 8 million viewers. NBC should kill for a half-hour with 8 million viewers. CBS bought Medium off NBC’s hands and could possibly return the favor. But no…NBC doesn’t want to do that. They aren’t ready to push that button. I seriously want Matthew Broderick to put on his old computer, hack into NBC, and “accidentally” start a war game within that company.

Starring Matthew Broderick
Seriously Matt....put NBC to DefCon 1.

They need to wake up, because if they aren’t gonna panic when they’re close to Univision in ratings OR when they hit the lowest ratings period for a Thursday Night in its NETWORK’S HISTORY, nothing will….well, maybe when CW passes them in viewership.

#4-The Internet

In business, it’s a big deal to be the first at something in an industry. The iPod was the first popular (and functionally sound) mp3 player. Windows was the first operating system. NBC had the first late night show, the first show with the format of “about nothing”, the first network to put their comedies on the same night. That/’s why they’ve been good for years. But they were also the first to put their shows online. And that’s where the problem lies.

I don’t think its something that can be fixed; but to NBC, perhaps Hulu possibly going out of business is a good thing for the network. Hulu is a joint venture with FOX, NBC, and ABC. However, CBS is not on Hulu. They do have some of their stuff on their own website, but not a lot. But notice, CBS has the least internet presence and is America’s “most watched network”. FOX, which puts their content up a week after its aired, is second place among the networks. ABC is similar to NBC in that it appears on Hulu the next day after air; however, guess who was the first to introduce this new direction of media: NBC. And look at it, standing ugly in dead last. So perhaps the internet was a huge disadvantage for the three joint networks, especially for the network that started it all.

Summary

Overall, I find it interesting that NBC has a ton of problems, and they their thinking of the quick fixes, trying to milk out the most amount of sales possible. At least it seems that way (I mean, seriously, Prime Suspects everyday ain’t fooling anybody, the show isn’t that good). Greenblatt doesn’t have to clean NBC quickly. He could take the Les Moonves approach and fix things gradually. However, CBS was still 3rd overall when it was struggling, and not competing against a Spanish-Speaking network (even if NBC does have some ownership of that network). It’s time for Greenblatt to start cleaning house now, immediately, before NBC hits an all-time low in everything.

Executives for years have said they’re okay. Well, Mr. Greenblatt:

It’s time to go DefCon 1.

NBC...don't get nuked.

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