Commentary

Turning Back The TV Development Hands Of Time At NBC: Will Viewers And Advertisers Follow?

What is this, 1992? NBC has announced 11 new shows over the last several days.

Seems like the good old days, when networks had plenty of dough to throw around, when "up-front" markets never seemed "down-back," with CPMs always seemingly going higher no matter what shape the economy was in  -- and when networks went with big expensive upfront program presentations. In recent years, NBC, as well as CBS and others, could offer as few as three new shows for a new season.

 Of course, we all know that NBC has a lot of holes to fill, especially as a fourth-place network. Now TV industry observers can wonder: Is NBC really committed to using the TV production community to its fullest, or will there be new ground rules?   

With 11 new scripted series --and no lower-cost reality shows so far -- it seems the network is sending a comfortable message to advertisers, that even with the prospect of still lower broadcast ratings, big high-profile TV shows/content is on the way back. (ABC has been delivering this message for a number of years, green-lighting 10-12 new shows; this year, at press time, it has announced nine.)

 We don't know all the specifics of the financial deals of the new season for NBC. But it seems like the right time for NBC to be going full-throttle, now that the economy is getting better and TV program pricing is rocketing up by 25% or more versus a year ago.

High-profile TV content continually teases big TV marketers -- all while digital premium TV sellers, including those enterprises like NBC/Disney/News Corp.'s Hulu.com, continue to figure out how to turn digital pennies into digital dollars.

 Content is not just king; it is the entire kingdom. TV marketers still need to attach themselves though promotions, branded entertainment or otherwise to TV shows/content even if the future is about addressable set-top boxes or behaviorally savvy Internet ad networks and programming services.

 Advertisers still need entertainment leverage -- more than just working the algorithms of an increasingly commodity-based 30-second-commercial marketplace.

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