Tuesday, May 04, 2010

NBC Opening Up the Wallet to Revive the Peacock

image:: John Kricfalusi's NBC peacock from 1990s, from DeviantArt.net

A recent NYTimes article discusses how NBC's Jeff Gaspin is trying to take NBC's prime time ratings out of freefall by loosening up the pursestrings. Moving away from several years of cost-cutting, Gaspin hopes to cultivate audiences once again, since the entertainment division that once made $300M per annum is now losing $300M. The Leno experiment that crashed and burned like a space shuttle disaster exploding across the US made the network look foolish and desperate. So, this winter, Gaspin got some relief at the 10PM slot with Law & Order: SVU and Parenthood doing surprisingly well.

What's in store at NBC? Here's a preview::
  • "Under Covers", a J.J. Abrams of Lost fame with a married couple reactivated as CIA agents.
  • "The Chase", a Jerry Bruckheimer {CSI} intense cop drama procedural
  • "Kindreds", a David E. Kelley legal drama
  • A remake of "The Rockford Files" from the creator of House
  • "Love Bites" a rom com from a writer on "Sex and the City
They also want to find more comedies to expand from just Thursday nights. It will be interesting to see what the fall grid will look like and how much support these shows will get.

I honestly believe that NBC will be sorely disappointed in the numbers and the ad revenues, simply because of the fragmentation of audiences. Whether or not they strategize to capitalize on the use of the Internet and the mobile web remains to be seen. NBC may have waited too long to start their rebuilding, particularly given how broadcast TV audiences are shrinking, limiting revenue potential. On the cost side, these tend to go up on a production as time progresses, squeezing the network in their battle to get audiences.

I've blogged about "Parenthood", which is a solid show. It's not going to get crazy buzz, but it has the potential to be a solid workhorse. If I were NBC, I'd be wary of shows that try to hit the ball out of the park with high concepts, overly quirky characters, and astronomical budgets that get hard to justify.

I'm interested in what they do with sitcoms. Sitcoms have attractive economics and also have greater syndication potential. "The Office" and "Office, Jr.", I mean "Parks & Recreation", and "30 Rock" might be tough to split up to tentpole on another night.

If I were NBC, I'd get creative and think in a postmodern fashion. I'd be thinking of more shows with shorter seasons and start talking to innovative show runners, producers, and directors about fresh concepts with mainstream appeal that they're dying to get into production that's about the work. While an "indie" model of TV breaks down because of the grind, shorter seasons may balance that out a bit.

Song:: Tom Petty-'Freefall'

Twitterversion:: NBC finally is getting out of cost-cutting mode and opening the wallet for the fall 2010 grid. @Prof_K