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Monday, 28 January 2013 14:13

NBC Makes Gains for a Younger Future

Written by  Frank Barron
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nbc_peacock_smIn the past, NBC’s peacock network ruled the roost. But in the new age of cable programming and DVRs, the network’s struggle has been the focus of Robert Greenblatt’s two years as chairman of NBC Entertainment. During the last NBC executive session at the Television Critics Association panel in Pasadena, Calif., Greenblatt gave an honest report on the state of the network. “What a difference a year makes,” he stated, noting that 2011’s fall season was bad.

“Well, I’m not saying that this year. In fact, we went into the fall [of 2012] with great momentum from last spring. We had the Super Bowl, ‘The Voice,’ the ‘Smash’ premiere, ‘America’s Got Talent’ and the Olympics. And we had a strategy that I outlined to everybody at the up-fronts that I’ve been talking about over the last six months. That included the following goals: to use the promotional platform of the Olympics to help launch our fall season; to start out fall premieres early to hold on to the Olympics’ momentum; to deploy ‘The Voice’ as a weapon on Monday and Tuesday, which would also hopefully provide new lead-ins for some new shows; to build off the momentum of Sunday and improve Monday, Tuesday and hopefully Wednesday nights; and basically just to get lucky enough to launch a few hits.” As Greenblatt continued, the gathered television writers were encouraged. “The good news is the strategy worked and it worked better than I think any of us thought it would.”

Greenblatt then launched into statistics that reinforced the proud peacock network. “The season to date at NBC is up 24 percent in [the] 18-to-49 [demographic],” he reported. “We’re up 19 percent in total viewers and up by double-digit percentages in all other key categories. NBC is the only network among the four broadcast nets to be up in 18-to-49 total viewers or by any other key measure. We all know that CBS still leads the networks in total viewers, but we’re now the clear number two, up from what was a distant number four a year ago [at] this time.” After reporting the success of the network’s Olympic broadcasts, Greenblatt praised the fall lineup and the gains made. “We have the number-one primetime series on broadcast television, which is our ‘Sunday Night Football,’” he said. “We have the number-one unscripted series in ‘The Voice.’ We have the number-one new drama on the broadcast networks with ‘Revolution.’ We have the number-one new comedy with ‘Go On’ and the number-one series on Friday, ‘Grimm.’”

the-voice-s3_sm “The Voice” created launch pads on Monday and Tuesday nights for the season’s top new drama and top new comedy, “Revolution” and “Go On.” And Wednesday nights saw gains with the long-running “Law & Order: SVU,” which is up by 20 percent. “Newcomer ‘Chicago Fire’ is also a show we’re very pleased with, and we think it’s a great show that just keeps on getting better and better,” said Greenblatt. He also noted that NBC’s critically acclaimed comedies, like Thursday’s “30 Rock” and “The Office,” continue to deliver among the youngest and most upscale audiences found on any broadcast network. “To finish out the week,” he continued, “Friday has been an unqualified success for ‘Grimm,’ which, I think, benefitted from having original episodes running in August right after the Olympics. ‘Grimm’ is the number-one 18-to-49 show on Friday night.”

The highlight of Greenblatt’s speech was his assessment that NBC is the only broadcast network that’s “getting younger.” “In median age compared to last year, NBC is now at 48.4, down from 49,” he said. “CBS is 56.4, which is up from 54.9. ABC is at 53.2, and Fox is at 45.7, which is up a tick from 45.6. Even the CW is up to 41.2, which is almost four years higher than it was last season. Did anyone think that the network once known for its teenage profile had a median age of 41?” So it seems that, for now, NBC’s peacock has found the fountain of youth in the ratings arena. Greenblatt expects NBC’s momentum to continue in the future as the network makes plans to broadcast the 2014 Winter Olympics — and the games will be here before you know it.
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