NBC Has Hits, But It's Still Rebuilding

Road to the Upfront: NBC

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) Advertising Age's annual feature, Road to the Upfront, continues this week with a look at NBC. Calling this last year a challenge for the Peacock Network is a bit of an understatement, but it has some bright spots, including "My Name is Earl" and "The Office" as a basis to rebuild the highly important Thursday night line up.
Keith Turner
Keith Turner

The Player: NBC

Key Executive: Keith Turner, president, NBC Universal sales and marketing.

The Ratings Game: At the start of the season, NBC network executives said the network's prime time is in turnaround mode. It still is. First the bright spots: "My Name is Earl" is the comedy hit of the season, "Deal/No Deal" has turned into a barnstormer and "The Office" has proven it's worth hanging on to. Still, it's been another tough year for the network. For week 30 of the season to April 16, NBC rated a 2.6 and drew around 3.4 million viewers in the 18-49 demographic. During the same period a year ago, the Peacock drew a 3.0 and 3.94 million viewers. Season-to-date the picture looks slightly better: NBC's average rating among 18-49s is 3.3, behind Fox and ABC at 4.0 and CBS at 3.8.

What You'll Hear: Mr. Turner said: "We'll highlight our development, which was fantastic. We have some great dramas including 'Kidnapped,' 'The Black Donnellys' and 'Studio 60.' I feel good with where we stand." The NFL returns to NBC this fall, and the net gained the support of buyers at this year's development meetings.

Last Year's Upfront: The network got squeezed big time last year. After heading into the market looking for increases, NBC was forced to offer rollbacks and reduce cost-per-thousands to bring in the volume. NBC's upfront presentation was poorly received by some buyers, and when all was said and done, NBC was down some $900 million compared to the previous year's take. NBC finished the upfront at the $2 billion mark.

The Buyer's Verdict: Scott Haugenes, senior VP-group director, Initiative, said: "They are not the NBC of 'Must See TV,' yet they're not the NBC of a year ago. I think they're poised for better. I was very impressed with their slate of development. I thought 'Kidnapped' looked very good. What they've done on Thursday with 'My Name is Earl' and 'The Office' is a huge step forward for them. Showing patience with a show like 'The Office' clearly paid off."
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