In the early '90s, NBC produced its famous "Must-See TV" marketing line that took on a life of its own. Focusing on big Thursday night programs, "Cheers," "Seinfeld," "Mad About You," "Friends," and "ER," among others, NBC's high-powered shows sustained the truth in the slogan for years.
Since then, networks typically have eschewed such broad-based marketing themes. The logic comes from that old saying: People watch programs, not networks.
Of course this doesn't seem to apply to cable networks. Those brands have to have a sharper focus. Thus you have Fox News' "We Report. You Decide"; TBS' "Very Funny"; TNT's "We Know Drama"; and USA Network's "Characters Welcome," among others.
In the late '90s, ABC -- mostly on the ropes in third or fourth place -- found room for a wide-ranging network brand campaign, the so-called "yellow campaign," with the ultimate tongue-in-cheek marketing line, "TV is good."
Once ABC began to get some good shows, the line seemingly lost some bite -- or sarcasm.
Still, that kind of wide-ranging marketing theme could seemingly return if broadcast networks ever work themselves into the niche arena that some cable networks find themselves in. For example, couldn't CBS offer a spin on all its procedural crime dramas?
Tim Brooks, executive vice president of research at Lifetime, told Television Week that broad-based nightly slogans could be tricky business. "If NBC adopts a slogan like this, they have to stay with comedies on Thursday night, and that can be tough if they decide to put in an 'Apprentice.'"
It's not just Thursday night. NBC is looking to regroup other programs on other nights, for example on Sunday.
With "Deal or No Deal, "The Apprentice," and, possibly, "The Biggest Loser" on that night, NBC could offer up another line or two: "Reality Night -- With Bite" or "Reality on NBC: Pact, Fat or Sacked."