NBC Continues to Struggle Despite Leadership Change

In the late-1990s, advertisers couldn’t do better than securing a spot on NBC’s Thursday comedy night.

But times have changed. NBC has been in decline for several years and this fall’s ratings show that the trend is continuing. During the first four weeks of the fall season, viewership from the key demographic of 18 to 49 years is down 16% from last year. As the most valued advertising group, this could spell bad news for NBC in their quest to court new advertising.  NBC has consistently come in fourth behind ABC, Fox and CBS for several years.

What’s to blame? While NBC was owned by GE, executives cut costs in order to keep up with smaller audience segments. Now that ownership has changed to Comcast, executives are committed to turning the network around over the next three to five years. Comcast was mainly interested in the cable channels in NBCU’s stable, but will need to deal with NBC’s problem of hemorrhaging money and audience numbers. In order to do so, they have brought on Bob Greenblatt, the former creative chief at Showtime. He has retooled the staff, brought in new heads of scripted programming and is already focusing on the 2012 spring and fall seasons.

Greenblatt and his team have big challenges to overcome. Two of their biggest shows, “Law and Order SVU” and “The Biggest Loser,” have experienced major viewership drops – mainly due to each losing a star. The “Law and Order” spinoff had a 20% decline and “The Biggest Loser” lost 23% of their viewers compared to last year. Prime time is losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars per year, but Comcast has committed to NBC as a turnaround opportunity.

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