How Do You Solve a Problem Like NBC?

Reposted from November 20. Looks like NBC keeps digging itself a bigger hole with today’s news of Leno/Conan and everything else. I will add one more suggestion though…

He’s put NBC in the position it is in today. Why in the world would you trust him going forward?!?!

You could probably go into any college Media Studies, Film, Television, Writing, Communications class in the country and find someone who can run NBC better than those honchos currently running the oldest broadcast network on television (if you include the radio years).

In fact San Francisco Chronicle television columnist Tim Goodman witnessed that very fact.

NBC is doing too hot right now and the possibility of this huge deal with Comcast looked like a just the thing that could jump start the network.

Until they said no matter what happens, Jeff Zucker would stay in charge. Umm… that’s probably not going to help anything. One reason I was very excited about the deal with Comcast was that fresh blood would be infused into NBC Universal and hopefully that fresh blood would help the company’s flagship network.

But keeping Jeff Zucker, who has been in charge this entire time NBC has been collapsing, is not a good start.

You know a good thing for NBCU to do to start, kind of a “got nothing to lose” sort of way? Put out the request to all TV critics and media/TV students across the country who still have an ounce of care or sympathy for NBC to give suggestions on what the network can do to turn itself around (or dig itself out of its grave?)

Here’s my two cents (which is pretty worthless for NBC executives who really don’t want to hear any suggestions to keep their ship afloat)…

Cut The Jay Leno Show To Three Times a Week
Jay Leno may not have a place on primetime 5 nights a week, but may 2 or 3 nights would be okay. It will allow Jay to save good material for less nights a week, make the show a more comedy-heavy show than a talk show, and allow NBC to program 10pm on some nights. So a MWF Jay Leno schedule would open up Tuesdays at 10pm for the return of Law & Order: SVU where it thrived. It would also allow NBC to reclaim Thursdays at 10pm as the marquee drama hour of the network. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 10pm have been the toughest hours for NBC to program in the last couple of years, so it will eliminate their need to find a 10pm show that can be a hit, but still give them options on Tuesdays or Thursdays. They can do the same with a TTh strategy as well. I think Jay is here to stay, but there is no reason why they can’t find a better way to air Jay in primetime than 5 nights which is hurting both the network and the show, both can do better.
I even just read a comment online suggesting NBC put Jay in Daytime. Hey, with Oprah leaving, it leaves the Daytime talk arena a new, wide open playing field. It’s a gamble that could work.

Keep The Biggest Loser Where It Is
Probably the only thing working on NBC other than Sunday Night Football (which NBC only has for half a TV season) is The Biggest Loser‘s two-hour block on Tuesdays. While 2-hours may seem like a lot for any reality show, The Biggest Loser has been the only shining light for NBC in the last year especially. Regularly winning its timeslot in total viewers and more importantly, the demo, quite handily actually. Each half-hour of the show gains more viewers exponentially and a three hour Biggest Loser finale last season drew NBC’s biggest numbers in a long time. I think not even NBC expected the show to be such a success, so don’t fix what isn’t broken. The return of a Biggest Loser-SVU combo would help NBC solidify a competitive Tuesday for them, as well as provide the platform for promo for the rest of the line-up.

Don’t Be Afraid to Gamble and Take Chances
NBC gambled with Jay Leno and so far it’s mixed results. But when I say NBC should gamble, I think NBC should gamble and take chances with more scripted programming. My fear for the failure of scripted shows, which critics and fans rave about, but don’t get enough viewers to make them viable to keep on, is that NBC will be discouraged to develop new and interesting scripted series. Low ratings for series that take effort like Kings may discourage NBC from taking those chances and instead push them too look for more cheap, low brow entertainment. There is room for a commercial, yet smart series on the air.

NBC just needs to be able to take chances, because you aren’t going to win if you don’t. Profits are important, but there is no reason to find a profitable series that people actually watch and talk about right? Basically giving up on shows before they even premiere like what they did to Kings and are doing to Day One is exactly the kind of thing they shouldn’t do if they hope to find a new hit. I’m sure up to this day, the network is regretting not picking up Eden, their Lost-like pilot in development the same season as ABC’s pop culture phenom. It’s opportunities like that where NBC should not be afraid to put their confidence into something different. It’ll take some investment, but if they do it smart, they’ll reap big rewards.

Kill Heroes
Just do it. Kill Heroes. The show that looked like NBC’s answer to Lost has just fallen so hard and so fast, it is unbelievable. It’s first season was outstanding, it’s Emmy nomination for Best Drama, deserved. But since then, it’s like everyone behind the show just gave up for no reason. The ratings are horrible, critics and fans have given up on the show. It’s better to kill it now than prolong the agony. With Jay Leno taking up precious primetime property, NBC could easily do better with Heroes‘ timeslot.

Find a Good Balance
It’s hard to develop a series that critics will go crazy for and the pubic will eat up. That combination is rare because usually it’s one or the other. It’s either a low-rated critical darling that has to be saved by satellite television companies or national sandwich chains or a highly rated, meh to horrible juggernaut. NBC has to find that perfect combination that attracts viewers yet can also bring pride to the network. NBC’s reputation, however wrong it may be, is that it puts on crap shows, which is why no one is watching, which is far from the truth.

NBC has to find that right combination, otherwise they must find a good balance. Mix your cult hits with mainstream fare. NBC’s Thursday night comedies could use at least one mainstream comedy that can boost the cult faves.

Just look at the shows NBC has in development for next season: The Futon Critic’s DEVWATCH: NBC
There’s plenty of interesting possibilities there, both different (superheroes and supernatural) and accessible (Jerry Bruckheimer procedural) choices.

Invest in Co-Productions
NBC is all about profits now right? Saving money? Well, they had something going there with the international co-productions. Sharing costs with foreign production companies from Canada to Europe, that can certainly save money while churning out fresh series. But NBC was quick to pull the plug on shows like Crusoe, The Listener, and The Philanthropist. They’re paying for half the series, yet they don’t provide any support when the shows actually go to air. Teaming up with foreign productions should be a win-win for everyone, especially for NBC. Fresh, new stories are presented while they pay for only half the costs. Give it the same amount of promo support as a homegrown NBCU production and you can find yourself a hit. But NBC must remember…

Be Patient
While some shows like Friday Night Lights, Life, and Chuck, as well-loved as they are, couldn’t find the big audience they were hoping for despite the patience NBC had with them. But with patience, NBC should also not give up. Keep providing that promo support and find new ways to get the shows to new audiences. Have people discover the series, who otherwise might not have checked it out in the first place. Shows themselves can even grow and improve as time goes on.

Journeyman which was seen as confusing and convoluted when it first premiered, really hit its stride as it neared its run, both creatively and even ratings-wise, yet NBC had already pulled the plug and only burned off the full 13 episode order since they had nothing on deck. Just this season, freshman series Trauma, which was on its last legs of survival, saw tiny gains in viewers, but held steady with the show developing creatively as well. Sometimes NBC just needs to be patient and not give up. Okay, you’ve renewed Friday Night Lights, but do nothing to let people know it’s back? Doing that just defeats the purpose of believing in a show in the first place and NBC is guilty of that many times in the recent past.
Now Be Patient contradicts the cut Jay down now suggestion, but it isn’t so much not being patient with Jay’s numbers, rather making a move that should benefit 10pm dramas and Jay (and therefore help local news and Conan).

Don’t Give Up!
Honestly, NBC just can not throw in the towel. Or at least, even give the impression that they are throwing in the towel. Jay x5 gave off the impression that “We’re NBC and we can’t find any shows to put on at 10pm so we’ll just put this on instead.” Regardless of all the explaining NBC can do, the public perception is NBC is giving up, which is a way, they are, but the network needs to continue to be aggressive in programming. They can’t resign to “Well, we can’t beat them, so why join them” mentality. NBC continues building up a development slate, but it’s as though that’s only a formality. Are they really looking for new hit series? Or are they looking for something to plug a hole?

And these are just my humble suggestions. There’s at least 5 million people out there who could throw out even better ones, and yet they stick with Jeff Zucker and the people he’s hired.

Comcast!!!! If this deal pulls through, please knock some sense into NBC Universal. Instill the can-do attitude that’s allowed you to conquer cable television and now internet and home phone service! You’re doing pretty well with Versus and the regional Comcast Sports Networks.

There’s still a sliver of the once mighty NBC hidden somewhere deep inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza. I just hope someone finds it soon!

And anyone who cares? Send NBC some of your suggestions. They need ’em.

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