Rather than distributing a lineup of shows to affiliate stations, the network could instead offer affiliates the first chance to purchase certain programming, then syndicate the shows to other stations if the affiliates take a pass.
NBC West Coast President Don Ohlmeyer said although the syndication model is not one he prefers, "the fact of the matter is it is a model that is open to discussion and is being discussed."
Top NBC executives recently gathered in Palm Springs, Calif., for a brainstorming session. One of the issues addressed was the daytime problem -- and possible solutions.
NO. 3 IN DAYTIME
NBC has long been a laggard in the daypart. It ranks third in daytime ratings among the three major broadcast networks, and doesn't even come close to top-rated CBS.
NBC currently programs four hours during the day, a half-hour less than either ABC or CBS. Its only hit is the 33-year-old "Days of Our Lives." The network's other daytime shows are the soap operas "Another World" and "Sunset Beach" and the talk show "Leeza." "Sunset Beach" has been on the air for more than a year and only pulls a 1.9 Nielsen rating and a 7 share.
Mr. Ohlmeyer said NBC was losing money on its daytime schedule as recently as five years ago, although he said that is no longer the case.
"Soap operas are big risk, big reward vehicles," he said. "If one works, it can be a franchise for decades." He added that his first choice would be to get NBC's affiliates to better promote the network's current daytime lineup.
"If our daytime lineup got the promotion by stations that they give to, say `The Rosie O'Donnell Show,' we'd be doing fine."
Countered one NBC affiliate general manager, who requested anonymity, "It's not a promotion issue. If NBC gave me a show as popular as `Rosie,' I'd promote the hell out of it."
NBC's affiliate board is said to be aware the network is debating possible changes to how it programs daytime. Affiliate Board President Ken Elkins, president-CEO of Pulitzer Broadcasting, did not return phone calls by deadline.
Under one plan NBC is considering, the network would likely commit its owned-and-operated stations to certain shows, then work with program suppliers -- current and new, including NBC Studios -- and distributors to syndicate the shows, perhaps giving right of first refusal to NBC affiliates.
Mr. Ohlmeyer said there are very different economic models between syndication and network programming: "We pay compensation and sell advertising [currently]; with syndication, it's license fees and barter spots."
Rival CBS already has some experience using that model. The network participates in daytime syndication through its Eyemark Entertainment division. Eyemark syndicates "Martha Stewart Living" and "The Gayle King Show," which most stations pair during the day in an hour-long block.
On a cost-per-thousand basis, those shows get a higher rate than the average daytime network program, according to Dan Cosgrove, president of Eyemark Media Sales.
HAGGLING OVER `DAYS'
"Days" is supplied to NBC by Columbia Picture's Television. Electronic Media has reported the network and studio are already haggling over the license fee NBC will have to pay to renew the show next year.
One studio insider said NBC has not yet mentioned any syndication/partnership arrangement in regard to the show, "though in the past we have toyed with the idea of syndicating the show ourselves."
So it's possible NBC could come up with a financial model that would see it getting more daytime revenue than it does now through a combination of syndicating shows on its stations.
Procter & Gamble Co. also has a major interest in any changes NBC might make, since the marketer produces "Another World."
"I think the show just needs better promotion and time periods," said one executive at a P&G ad agency, echoing Mr. Ohlmeyer's comments. "And I think a full-service network like NBC should program all traditional dayparts."
This would not the first time the network has abdicated a traditional programming segment. In 1992, NBC pulled out of the highly competitive kids' market on Saturday mornings, substituting teen programming.