NBC Betting Heavily on One New Series: The Price Tag Is Steep, but the Network Needs a Hit

Feb 3, 2012  •  Post A Comment

As NBC tries to reverse its ratings — which have been in the doldrums (to put it mildly) for years now and seem to be getting worse rather than better — it is betting heavily on a charismatic cultural figure from the past: Marilyn Monroe, reports Joe Flint in the Los Angeles Times.

On Monday the network will debut "Smash," a series about turning Monroe’s life into a Broadway musical. Called a passion project for NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, "Smash" hasn’t come cheaply: The pilot cost more than $7 million, with subsequent episodes in the $4 million range, according to the story.

"Smash" has received good reports from critics, but critical acclaim doesn’t guarantee ratings, "particularly for a show that was conceived with a cable sensibility," Flint points out. NBC’s new shows this season have largely flopped, including high-profile projects "The Playboy Club" and "Prime Suspect."

NBC’s low ratings — only one scripted show is in the list of the 50 most-watched TV shows this year — pose another problem for "Smash." It’s harder for the network to lure viewers to a show if the network as a whole has low viewership, the story points out.

Maureen Bosetti, an executive VP of Optimedia, notes: "If you are promoting yourself on your own network and few are watching, it is challenging."

The report adds: “Take NBC’s Sunday football out of the equation and its prime-time audience is about 5.7 million viewers, down 11% from last season, according to Nielsen.”

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