By some measures NBC has done everything right in the past year.
The network readily embraced online content integration with its NBC 360 plan. It launched the top-rated new drama (“Heroes”) and boosted Sunday nights last fall with NFL football. NBC revived its Thursday night comedy block with a lineup that some critics say is its funniest ever.
Unfortunately, none of those measures have changed the bottom line: NBC is still in fourth place—and down 6 percent from last year.
“Boy, they have a real challenge,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming at Katz Television Group. “They were not able, with the exception of ‘Heroes,’ to make a significant breakthrough this year.”
This season NBC also launched “30 Rock,” whose critical regard (if not its ratings) kept rising throughout the season, and the well-received “Friday Night Lights,” which the network renewed last week.
Some pilots look promising. NBC is excited about its update of “Bionic Woman,” from NBC Universal, and announced late last week that it is picking up the series. It will likely pair the show with “Heroes” for a Monday night superhero block. “Sex and the City” author Candace Bushnell’s NBC Universal drama “Lipstick Jungle,” also picked up last week, is certain to draw comparisons to “Sex” creator Darren Star’s similarly themed Sony drama “Cashmere Mafia” at ABC. The Josh Schwartz action comedy “Chuck,” from Warner Bros. TV and Wonderland Sound and Vision, and time-travel drama “Journeyman,” from 20th Century Fox, also received pickups last week, as did NBC Universal’s cop drama “Life.”
The biggest lingering question is what shape the “Law & Order” series will take next fall. Given NBC’s recent month of record ratings lows, the latest insider whispers predict all three shows will continue forward in some capacity, with hedging scenarios including potential half-season orders or even the flagship moving to TNT.
Other questions include whether NBC is going to keep its comedy block in the competitive Thursday night bombardment and whether former reality titan “The Apprentice” has been fired.
With Entertainment President Kevin Reilly’s contract recently renewed, the network should have some stability in the programming department. Look for NBC to continue expanding its exclusive online content (including webisodes for “Bionic Woman”) and announce a new scheduling strategy for “Heroes,” with fewer breaks during the season.
When: Monday, May 14, 3 p.m. (ET)
Where: Radio City Music Hall
Key executives: Jeff Zucker, President and CEO, NBC Universal; Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Entertainment; Mike Pilot, President, NBC Universal Sales and Marketing
Adults 18-49 season to date: 3.1, -6%
Total viewers: 9.0 million, -8%
2006-07 breakouts: “Heroes,” “30 Rock”
Biggest holes: Mondays at 10 p.m., Wednesdays at 8 and 9 p.m.
Source: Nielsen Media Research ratings data for Sept. 18, 2006, to May 5, 2007, compared with Sept. 19, 2005, to May 7, 2006