How To Revive NBC? Comcast Actually Knows The Way

If Comcast is really serious about avoiding future derogatory adjectives -- like  "dumber" pipe -- it should take a page out of a business it has long been associated with: Build NBC up as a cable network.

Forget about all the digital/online distribution of content for the moment -- and even the issue about whether Jeff Zucker should hang around after the deal is completed. Holding onto the NBC network and giving it a new financial model is the real key.

Getting a dollar a subscriber as a cable network will give NBC around $1.2 billion a year to play with, added to the two billion or so it already gets from national TV advertising per year.

NBC's brand, while diminished, still has value. It still speaks of quality writing -- especially when looking at "30 Rock" or "The Office" or "Community." But it needs a lot more -- things only a cable entity can provide.

Just think of it. As a cable network, it could have held onto to the likes of a "Southland" -- a critics' favorite -- all because of cable's dual revenue stream financial model. Perhaps it could have given "Heroes" a better creative platform to evolve and establish a solid core, instead of the show's being desperately pulled around story-wise.



If Comcast is really worried about content, it should focus on all those TV producers who felt abandoned and pissed off when NBC made the 10 p.m. move with Jay Leno. These factors could finally make NBC edgier and more important, under, say, a "TV network 4.0 plan."

As a cable network, NBC would be freed up content-wise. After all, viewers were promised when the cable industry was starting up decades ago that programming would be daring and original, in part because cable shows wouldn't be restricted by FCC content and language rules.

I'm not saying the freedom to curse will bring back viewers, but it'll send a creative signal to TV producers that future video content under Comcast is truly held in high regard.

It wasn't that long ago when top NBC executives used to groan over a show like "The Sopranos" for what it could get away with content-wise; for its success, despite its small audience relative to broadcast network shows; for the positive spin from critics; and the award-winning marketing patina it gave HBO.

Want to make NBC cool again? Do what viewers still sense NBC is capable of: make even better TV shows. Make it a cable network.

6 comments about "How To Revive NBC? Comcast Actually Knows The Way".
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  1. Aldo Bender from SmartSystems Media Group, November 19, 2009 at 11 a.m.

    Comcast is buying a tarnished name, that's about all there is left to this once storied broadcaster... All you have to do is watch what passes for news now days and I won't even touch there pathetic programming issues, way to numerous for a comment section...

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 19, 2009 at 11:09 a.m.

    Yes, let's fill our screens with gritty gratuitous language. What a fitting legacy to David Sarnoff to make all dramas utter "douche-bag" because that the way people (on the east and left coast) talk.

    Gimme a break. How is it that the all-time classic movies (Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and even war films like The Best Years of Our Lives) still live on as great films despite their being made without gutter language beyond an occasional "damn"?

    My, look how far we've come and wouldn't our grandmothers be SO proud of us! She always dreamed we grow up "cool" -- right?

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 19, 2009 at 11:20 a.m.

    How long do you think before all TV is cable?

  4. Suzanne Sell from Independent, November 19, 2009 at 11:55 a.m.

    As a cable network, NBC would not generate the same ad revenues, since it would not reach the same size audience. And what about its existing affiliate contracts? I know the NBC affils are unhappy now, but now you're talking about virtually destroying around 200 local stations--including NBC's own O&Os. What do you think would be the likely outcome of that?

  5. Stanford Crane from NewGuard Entertainment Corp, November 19, 2009 at 1:35 p.m.

    To address the ever more fragmented market, NBC should simply create NBC2 and put that on cable. It that way they can have their cake and eat it too.

  6. Kevin Barry, November 20, 2009 at 11:57 a.m.

    But what do broadcast stations really add in terms of value? Outside of local news, I can't think of anything. And the cynical, exploitative junk that passes for local news is pretty poor. So what if NBC chose to distribute its program stream via cable instead of via broadcast station? I imagine the current affiliation agreements wouldn't permit this, but they will expire and then it's time to reinvent local distribution. And in terms of revenue gained and lost, don't forget that Comcast then becomes an O&O in dozens of markets and benefits from the local avails in NBC programming.

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