ARMCHAIR NETWORK EXEC - UPDATED
From The Hollywood Reporter:
NEW YORK -- NBC is looking at "all options" to revamp its broadcast model, including possibly cutting the number of primetime hours or even nights per week, NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker said Monday afternoon.First of all, MyNetwork TV. They're still around? They seem less a network and more some kind of syndication package, kinda like the old Prime Time Entertainment Network, which was kinda of like a network embryo that got aborted. CW and Fox never aimed for more than the two hour a night they have now, and being that when the first of the newer network launched, Fox, it was seemingly unfathomable, the idea of a "fourth network." He says it's not throwing in the towel, but to me, it really does reek of "we can't handle it." And I'm not looking just to two other networks who can do it, but to the current crop of executives at NBC. Maybe greenlighting a series based off a highly-rated telemovie that was so simply out of nostalgic curiosity and completely ignoring the fact that that no one who saw it actually liked it isn't the sign of someone who's on their game.
"Can we continue to broadcast 22 hours in primetime? Three of our competitors don't," Zucker said during Monday's keynote at the annual UBS Global Media and Communications Conference. "Can we continue to broadcast seven days a week? One of our competitors doesn't." NBC, CBS and ABC, the legacy networks, program in primetime seven days a week for at least three hours a night. Fox programs two hours a night, seven days a week. The CW and MyNetwork TV do less.
"It's not giving up. It's not retrenching. It's not throwing in the towel," Zucker said.
And do I even need to mention the whole "let's not bring the shows back after the writer's strike" thing. Not exclusive to NBC certainly, but it's not doing the bulk of those shows any favors. It's outright killed some sows that were quite well received last year.
He asked whether Friday and Saturday should be programmed the same way as it has been in the past. Most of the other networks don't program originals on Saturday night anymore, with the exception of CBS' "48 Hours Mystery" and NBC's "Saturday Night Live" after 11:30 p.m.How about this. Friday night is a showkiller, but only because the shows on Friday get killed. Putting Dollhouse and Terminator there seems to be just the preliminary step before axing. Well, fact is...Friday sucks...and I understand why DVR viewage is looked down upon. You're skipping the commercials. I know you do it. But how about we harness the group of obsessive watch it when it's on because I can't wait hardcore fans of that genre to make something out of that night rather than write it off completely. Don't cancel the sci-fi. Shove it to Friday and let it live there. Yeah, it's a sci-fi ghetto, but I'll take a ghetto over a hole in the ground.
"All of those questions are on the table and are actively looking at all these options," Zucker said.
After the UBS event, Zucker told The Hollywood Reporter there are no plans to do this but that in today's media climate, the options are prudent to at least consider. But he also said he didn't want to give the wrong impression.The only way I'd want to see this is if we got some good original syndication packages going on, like in the olden times of the Sam Raimi shows and the Trek franchises. That concept seems to mostly dead and the stuff that does manage to get to the air that way is usually buried at 2AM...and for good reason.
There have been rumors that the networks were at least looking at the possibility of cutting back on hours or days, returning them to local affiliates to program. But it seemed the first time that they had been discussed in public, to the investment community or anywhere else.
But at the same time, the ratings are down across the board for the broadcast nets. Only CBS has had relatively modest declines; the rest have seen steeper drops.
The NBC Uni CEO also said that digital ad sales momentum has hit a sudden wall this quarter and will not grow as much as people had predicted, not even in the area of high-end video (such as NBC.com, Hulu). "It has really, really slowed dramatically," Zucker said, and "dried up in the scatter market." Overall, the company "can't count on digital to be the big growth engine that we thought it would be in 2009," he warned.I know there's more to it than this, but again...see the strike. Strikes are potential TV killers. And the Internet has not yet become a replacement medium. It can't seem to support anything longer than five minutes...unless you're famous...because you made some TV shows. Hulu and stuff is great and all, but it's not there yet. TV is ubiquitous, but there's still plenty of people who don't want to watch shit on the computer screens and computers and cable haven't become one thing yet.
Zucker expressed doubts about an often-predicted economic rebound in the back half of 2009, saying it may only come later. "I don't think we know," he cautioned. "And I don't know how anyone knows."OK. Yeah. You can't count on a fundamental underpinning of our civilization that exists entirely in the theoretical hive mind of the planet to be rational or predictable.
Meanwhile, Zucker acknowledged the poor performance of NBC but didn't lay the blame at NBC Entertainment co-chairs Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff.No, you assigned that to fall guys. No pun intended.
"We have not had a good fall at NBC," Zucker acknowledged. He said that none of the broadcast nets have had a strong TV season. But that doesn't give him any comfort that broadcast overall isn't in good shape.
"I don't think that's lost on Ben or Marc Graboff," Zucker said in response to a question about Silverman's status from the audience. "In no way have we lost confidence" in either Silverman or Graboff.
Fine, but I'd be keeping an eye on the confidence needle.
"We do have to continue to rethink what a broadcast network is today and what we want to be aspirationally," Zucker said. "Do we have to be the way we've always been?"Do you want to be less than?
EDITED TO ADD:
This just announced.
In a surprise move, Jay Leno is taking over the 10 p.m. slot on weeknights on the network.This bodes poorly for more mature drama on the network. SVU at 9/8c? The drama market just shrank. There's not going to be a great deal of envelope pushing around here. I expect everything will be light fare along the lines of Chuck and Knight Rider.
The move is a huge coup for NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker, who has long said he wanted to keep both Leno and his replacement, Conan O’Brien, in the NBC family.
The move would be a cost-effective manner in which to essentially cut down the amount of hours it must program with fare from the entertainment division. Jeff Zucker foreshadowed the move at a UBS media conference Monday, saying that NBC has to look at options including programming less primetime hours.
Seriously, where are they gonna put SVU?