Now that the merger between NBC Universal and Kabletown – sorry, I mean, Comcast – has been approved by the FCC and introductory memos have been sent out to all staff members to make it official, it’s time for the peacock network to start living up to its new motto and make history (again). Here’re five thoughts how they can do that.
For those who don’t work at NBC Universal, today saw Comcast boss and new NBC CEO Steve Burke announce that NBC has to be “in it to win it” and, most interestingly, mean more than just ratings (He told an audience that “We are in business for profit of course and ratings… but we can and we will stand for so much more than that”). Which is exactly the kind of rousing rhetoric that you’d expect from a new Man In Charge, but wouldn’t it be nice if he actually meant it? NBC, which has long been in trouble in terms of ratings and, let’s be honest, content, has a lot of work ahead of it in order to regain popular favor… but these are some steps I’d like to see it take to start.
Look To Other Networks (1)
Where’s the gap in the market? What audience isn’t being well served by your competition? The CW and Fox are, in their own ways, skewing younger and glossy – as well as heavily genre-bound – while CBS and ABC rock the procedural, older vote. I’m unsure what NBC means as a network these days, and I’m not alone (Chuck? Law & Order? The Biggest Loser? Do these shows have anything in common, demographic-wise?); maybe working that out, even by process of differentiating the network from the competition, would be a good place to begin.
Ratings Be Damned/The Good Will Out
It’d be great if Burke meant what he said about some things being more important than ratings. Like, for example, quality. Wouldn’t it be great if shows like Kings weren’t dropped so quickly because the audience wasn’t there yet? Or, to use a more current example, something like Parenthood isn’t in danger of losing its timeslot (or being canceled) because not enough people have seen it yet? NBC used to be known for its quality drama output, but that’s really dropped off in recent years, replaced by reality shows to chase cheaper, more populist quick hits. Maybe it’s time to return to the traditional values. Which, indirectly, leads me to…
Look To Comedy
You know what NBC (still) does really well? Comedy. 30Rock, Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office, are all great shows, and more importantly, all shows that were given the space and time to grow an audience and work out all their personalities and quirks. For some reason, it seems that that non-comedy fictional shows aren’t given the same treatment, and instead encouraged to be as homogeneous and familiar as possible (as anyone who saw Chase, Outlaw or Undercovers this year could tell you). New shows should be indulged and encouraged to have their own voices, so that they exist for more reason than just filling up an hour of airtime or keeping franchises alive; that’s the only way breakout hits come about.
Look To Other Networks (2)
Hey, NBC is the head of a corporate TV family that also includes USA, Syfy and Bravo. Why not take the best of those channels’ shows and put them on mainstream primetime to see how they do? Just a suggestion, brought to you by the board of “Wouldn’t White Collar, Top Chef and Being Human give NBC a nice boost in program quality?”
Oh, And Also…
…Start watching 30Rock. When they make jokes about NBC’s output? They’re funny because they’re true. Those’re the things you should think about fixing first. Make it harder to make fun of you.