Saturday, August 11, 2012

Another data point on the competence of NBC Universal*

I was thinking about the Christian Slater show My Own Worst Enemy the other day (not a sentence I write that often) specifically I was thinking about how much valuable Olympic ad space NBC burned on the show in 2008 before panicking at a slow start and pulling the plug in the middle of the first story arc.

On today's All Things Considered, Andrew Wallenstein had a nice piece on NBC's attempts to use the Olympics to promote its fall schedule, complete with some embarrassing examples that had slipped my mind:

Sure, you may be spending a lot of time with NBC this summer. But they'd like you to start thinking about the fall, too. That's why what seems like every third commercial during the Olympics is for the network's own shows. Animal Practice, Go On, Chicago Fire ... they're all on NBC's fall schedule, and you may feel like you're hearing about them — complete with lame sports metaphors — as much as you're hearing about gymnastics and track.

But the network isn't stopping at mere promotion; they're airing entire episodes of select shows after primetime coverage of the competition. Some will even start their seasons right after the closing ceremonies.

You may ask yourself: If the Olympic Games are such a powerful viewer magnet, why not schedule all the fall shows to start right after they end?

The answer: Because it almost never works. NBC has tried again and again over the years to use the Olympics as a launch pad for other programming. But do you remember Father Of The Pride in 2004? Or Conviction in 2006? Didn't think so. Both are examples of shows that failed to take off after being heavily promoted during Olympic coverage.

There are a number of theories as to why it doesn't work. First, there's the distinct possibility that none of the shows NBC has tried to launch out of the Olympics were all that good. Or maybe it's the fact that the Olympics provide what NBC's rivals dismiss as a "rented audience," meaning they're the kinds of viewers who flock to the Olympics but aren't interested in much else.
Along similar lines, TV by the Numbers looked at the track record of the new shows NBC promoted during the 2008 Olympics:
My Own Worst Enemy (the Christian Slater curse is born!) lasted 9 episodes
Knight Rider, lasted 17 episodes
Kath & Kim, lasted 17 episodes
America's Toughest Jobs (reality, started late August, season/series finale Oct)
Crusoe (started after ATJ) lasted 12 episodes.
As mentioned before, NBC has been badly run for years. No network has ever done more to deserve fourth place. By comparison, CBS is much better run and the small upstart Weigel is even more impressive. In theory, we should see huge salaries at CBS, loads of market interest and good press for Weigel and heads rolling like bowling balls at NBC Universal. Instead we're getting one out of three. It took years and thirty plus million in severance to get rid of Zucker and the chances are good that you've never heard of Weigel outside of this site.

* The people who brought you Battleship -- the Movie and this remarkable piece of business logic.

1 comment:

  1. My theory is inertia. They were so dominant, for so long, that people keep assuming that they will catch lightning in a bottle one more time.