NBC's Programming So Far: Good News For Advertisers; Viewers Need To Wait A Bit

If viewers aren't giving NBC all the credit it deserves, at least TV marketers are.

This is according to Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. Silverman, the high-profile, highly scrutinized NBC executive, said humbly at the New York Television Festival: "Every single first-year show we've launched has an advertising partner in place... which has probably never happened in broadcast TV."

One reckons maybe in the early days of TV, the late '40s and early '50s, there may have been a lot of these kinds of deals. But, OK -- we get the point.

This new version of network operations has a lot to do with NBC's bottom line. Virtually all of the Silverman-instituted shows are  reality TV series -- long known to easily lure TV advertisers, especially with integration deals.

Even though recent efforts like "America's Toughest Jobs" didn't  complete its toughest job -- earning decent ratings -- Silverman pointed to the new "cost" and "revenue" structure at the network, of which "Jobs" was probably a prime example.

For instance, Chrysler was "Jobs'" advertising partner. NBC changed its schedule,  running the show this summer instead of the planned 2009 summer launch, because of a new model the automaker wanted to release.

One might question whether rushing this show to market had NBC getting the wrong end of the financial equation, considering the less than desirable ratings  the show received.

Silverman and other NBC executives might argue that high-paying advertising partners bring down the average cost per TV episode -- which is the real message Silverman's boss, Jeff Zucker, president/CEO of NBC Universal, can pleasantly report to the higher-ups at General Electric.

Zucker has done a decent job in convincing the TV world and the press that it's not all about how NBC prime-time shows are fairing ratings-wise -- that there are other dayparts, other NBC Universal networks, other digital platforms to consider. Wall Street money managers and research executives lap that stuff up because it's futurist thinking -- though it's just the short-term mindset that moves stock prices.

Even then NBC, and other broadcast networks, continue to benefit from the against-the-grain TV advertising market -- such as this past upfront, which garnered some nice medium-sized  price increases while the U.S. economy continues to weaken.

All this continues to clobber us on the head that isn't always about ratings, schedules, or whether or not Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann can separate opinion from news reporting.

NBC looks to make money. But if it gets one or two breakout shows this season, those network executives will really be unbearable to listen to -- claiming  not only that they're good financial operators, but that  they culturally understand what U.S. TV viewers want



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