Upfront 07

Still Seeking Its Return to the Top of the Heap

Road to the Upfront: NBC

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The TV upfront is right around the corner, and Advertising Age is here to help you keep track of the players in both broadcast and cable.

The player: NBC

Key execs: Mike Pilot, NBC Universal's president-ad sales; Beth Comstock, president-integrated media; Marianne Gambelli, exec VP-NBCU sales and marketing; Kevin Reilly, president-NBC Entertainment; Jeff Gaspin, president-NBCU cable and digital content
Michael Pilot, NBC Universal's president-ad sales
Michael Pilot, NBC Universal's president-ad sales Credit: Virginia Sherwood

The ratings game: NBC has a loyal Thursday-night audience for its new comedy block, and the NFL lifted NBC up to first place in the 18-to-49-year-old demo at the start of the season. But "Studio 60" did not fare as well as expected, though the ad industry appeared to love it, and "Black Donnellys" fizzled. Still, "Deal or No Deal" continues to be a huge draw and was the only NBC show beyond "Sunday Night Football" to reach the top 20 this season. NBC ranks fourth so far in live ratings, with an average of 3.6 among adults 18 to 49.

What you'll hear: NBC's slate of critically acclaimed and buzz-worthy shows represents a return to quality, and the network continues to focus on creating inventive digital-media extensions for clients across its properties.

Digital game: NBCU announced in March that it would partner with News Corp. for an ambitious online video partnership to rival Google's YouTube. NBC also will launch an enhanced video player with higher-quality streaming and built-in social-networking tools, increasing advertising opportunities. More "360" campaigns similar to the "Heroes" 360 Experience will launch with new shows.

Last year's upfront: Former NBC President-Sales Keith Turner reeled in $1.9 billion, but subtract an estimated $300 million from football, and NBC wound up at the bottom of the pile in entertainment sales. That's unlikely to be the case this year with Mike Pilot and Beth Comstock in the hot seats.

The buyer's verdict: "Given the 360 success of 'Heroes,' NBC was allowed to be more creative with some of their other shows this year," said Stacey Sherpatin, senior VP-director of national broadcast for Hill Holliday, Boston. "Their digital offering is interesting. They've done a lot to build that area and make it more user-friendly. They provide a lot of opportunities for people to get access to their content."
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