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NBC ENTERTAINS NEW VIEWER HOOK SPLIT SCREEN TO SHOW CREDITS, PROGRAMMING

By Published on .

NBC radically changes the look of network TV Sept. 19 when it unveils a bold makeover dubbed NBC 2,000.

In an effort to create a seamless flow between programs, promotions and station IDs, NBC will end much of the clutter between shows, including station breaks.

The cornerstone of the effort is a series of re-engineered credits at the end of shows. Credits for all NBC shows will have a standardized look with plain white type on a black background and will run in a small window occupying the TV screen's right-hand third.

The real action is on the left-hand side, where NBC will run a variety of entertainment programming designed to keep viewers hooked to their sets and the next NBC show.

They include elements NBC refers to as "living credits," "classic NBC," "NBC trivia" and "backstage moments."

A preview tape provided to Advertising Age showed a variety of examples, including an extra stand-up bit performed by Jerry Seinfeld at the end of "Seinfeld," a punchline to a storyline on "Mad About You" and a funny tag scene on "Frasier."

John Miller, exec VP-advertising, promotion and event programming, said other "living credits" might include bloopers or extra scenes that didn't fit in the original episode.

The NBC trivia example asked viewers what Art Linkletter, Soupy Sales, Groucho Marx and Jerry Lewis had in common in April 1962. Answer: They all hosted a week of "The Tonight Show" before Johnny Carson took over as host.

But the most intriguing elements are the backstage moments. Samples included on the preview tape included "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer playing a bluesy tune on his piano at home, culminating with the familiar NBC chimes and Mr. Grammer smirking defiantly into the camera.

NBC is not adding the entertaining elements out of altruism, but out of necessity. The move is designed to hold viewers long enough to sample its shows.

"We can't guarantee that the next show will keep the audience, but seamless programming can get them in the door," said Mr. Miller on the affiliate demo tape. "It can actually accelerate the process of building a new hit."

NBC used that strategy winningly this past season for one show, its rookie "Frasier," which followed hit "Seinfeld."

Mr. Miller said killing traditional station breaks is crucial to network TV's survival, because research shows audiences can dip as much as 25% during breaks between shows.

All other local prime-time units will be moved into one of three other commercial pods running inside programming.

NBC is making similar adjustments to its late-night look concurrent with the prime-time season launch and will make the changes to daytime within 60 days. NBC's Saturday morning lineup actually gets the jump on the adult dayparts, making the change Sept. 10.

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