In what appears to be a rare rebellion of network affiliates, a handful of large TV station groups have decided that their NBC stations will preempt Thursday night’s prime-time “upfront” event that NBC has been positioning as a reunion of “30 Rock.”
The story broke this week on Vulture.com.
The story estimates that all told, the stations preempting the show from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern reach approximately half of U.S. TV households, which means half the country won't see this show in its initial airing.
However, the story also emphasizes that the special will be made available on a host of NBCUniversal digital platforms -- which has the potential to dull the impact of these preemptions, which are being described as an affiliate protest.
The affiliates are balking reportedly because this one-hour event is in fact a one-hour promotion for NBCU's television platforms -- including the NBC network, of course, but also all of the company's basic cable networks and, most importantly this week for NBCU, its new streaming service called Peacock.
Perhaps it seems old-fashioned, but the NBC affiliates don't appreciate being asked to turn over an hour of prime time so that their network's parent company can promote new and returning shows on its cable channels, plus all of the content being offered on the new Peacock.
Promoting these other forms of television that siphon viewership away from broadcast television is not something these protesting affiliates want to be a party to.
Since NBC owns its affiliates in most of the nation's largest markets, this one-hour “30 Rock” reunion and upfront promotional TV special will get aired in the nation's biggest TV cities.
But the station groups that are preempting the show represent dozens of large-, medium- and small-market stations, which add up to 50% of the country. The groups are Gray Television, Hearst, Nexstar, Tegna and Sinclair.
Displeasure over NBCU's promotion of its TV platforms other than NBC is nothing new. In the modern TV era, it dates back at least to 2016, which was the first year that the company's spring upfront presentation at Radio City Music Hall included all of the company's cable networks in one giant NBCU free-for-all.
If memory serves, the affiliate general managers and group presidents who were seated more or less together in the auditorium's center section were not happy that the programs they were expected to air, promote and sell the following fall were sharing the upfront with basic cable.
This week's preemption protest serves as another illustration that the old network-affiliate relationship -- one of the longest continuous relationships in media -- is continuing to fray.