Credit Suisse: NBC Changes Rest On Performance

The idea that NBC should shake up tradition and possibly unveil its fall lineup after the other networks during upfront week grabbed the attention of one influential Wall Street analyst.

In a report this week, Credit Suisse's William Drewry did not say whether NBC would still lead off upfront week and make its presentation on Monday before the other networks, but just hold off releasing its night-by-night schedule and simply highlight new and returning shows. Or, if NBC execs would push to change the traditional order of upfront week, perhaps advocating a system where networks switch leadoffs each year.

This year, NBC announced that it would place promising new drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" on Thursdays at 9, only to change plans a week later--after ABC slotted mega-hit "Grey's Anatomy" opposite it. "Studio 60" is now scheduled for Mondays at 10.

Drewry wrote that NBC isn't likely to make changes or lobby aggressively for an industry-agreed switch until the struggling network improves its prime-time performance. That would give it more credibility, as it considers its options vis-à-vis its competitors.



"[Our] gut tells us that the NBC brass probably doesn't make the change until it's from a position of strength, rather than weakness," Drewry wrote.

The report, authored by Drewry along with other Credit Suisse analysts, furthered the media buzz that an NBC turnaround could be coming, but it emphasized that a ratings reversal won't happen overnight. Calling the network's fall lineup "particularly encouraging" with new dramas "Studio 60," "Heroes," "Friday Night Lights" and new comedy "30 Rock," Drewry feels it may be "another year or two before NBC regains upward ratings momentum, but we're encouraged by the new slate of shows."

In the soup-to-nuts evaluation of NBC Universal, the Credit Suisse team wrote that the GE's unit's greatest area of untapped value is in churning out new prime-time hits.

Addressing the oft-raised issue of whether GE would seek to drop NBC from its portfolio, Drewry suggested that the possibility of a spinoff or sale of NBCU could also hinge on what happens on NBC prime time. In the near term, he wrote, the chances of a major financial maneuver are low, but "the possibility could occur in several years, once NBC regains some prime-time momentum."

Potentially driving GE's decision over the next 16 months is former Universal owner Vivendi's right to exercise an option to sell its 20 percent stake in NBCU to GE next year.

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