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Does CBS or NBC represent the future of broadcast network TV


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 04:21 PM

In an article from Ad Age, we learn:

It all points to continued struggles for the once-great NBC and an over-reliance on football that may have implications for the broader TV market.

Regular airings of "Sunday Night Football" (and the popular competition series "The Voice") helped the network increase its 18-to-49 audience year-over-year by 16.2% for the season as of December 30, 2012, according to research from Barclays, while 18-to-49 viewership fell at CBS, Fox and ABC.

But without "SNF" and with the next cycle of "The Voice" not starting until March 25, NBC's 18-to-49 ratings thus far in 2013 are off 44.2% year-over-year as of Feb. 3, Barclays reported. Meanwhile, CBS is up, Fox's decline has narrowed and ABC's viewership is nearly flat.

This discussion raises the fact that NBC and CBS represent two economic models involving broadcast network TV.

In my opinion NBC is an experiment for Comcast/NBCU. As noted in the article referenced in Comcast to buy GE's 49% stake in NBCUniversal Comcast wants NBCU "particularly, for its lucrative cable TV channels." I'm also pretty sure there is no love lost between Comcast and the local broadcast channels which represent unnecessary costs to the cable side of the company. Even the ones owned-and-operated by NBCU are, in the end, have no future as significant profit generators, at least from broadcast network programming.

The Ad-Age article notes: "Ad buyers are anticipating the return of sci-fi drama 'Revolution,' the only breakout freshman hit among broadcast networks in the first half of the TV season." I'm not sure what "breakout" means.

All I know is that the last news about the show was 'Revolution' Season One Order Reduced by 2 Episodes. The idiots at NBC have given the show a long hiatus in order to take a ratings hit with "Deception." They hope, I guess, that the March 25 return will bring back the viewers. The last time the show ran against its competition the ratings looked like this:

NBC - Revolution........2.6/7 demo, 4.4 million 50+
CBS - Hawaii Five-O...2.2/6 demo, 6.8 million 50+
ABC - Castle.............2.0/5 demo, 8.4 million 50+

No one in their right mind would think a show that pulled about half the 50+ viewers compared to another show in its time slot is a winner.

CBS, of course, simply tries to get the most viewers while getting a reasonable demo because it doesn't own a stable of cable channels. In the end, it tries to make the broadcast network TV model work without any artsy shows like "Smash." Oh, and "Elementary" is the consistent winner of the "new show grow your audience" race at least partly because of its Live + 7 day ratings - folks are recording it.

But the future of broadcast network TV is either going to be the Sunday Night Football profit grab model NBC uses or the six-days-a-week model of CBS.

Edited by phrelin, 19 February 2013 - 04:35 PM.

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#2 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 03:09 AM

Having seen "House of Cards" on Netflix, which makes anything on the nets look like the unmitigated lowest-common-denominator trash it is, the future of network TV is sports, sports and more sports.

#3 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:54 AM

...the future of network TV is sports, sports and more sports.

God, I hope not! :nono2:

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#4 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 12:07 PM

When was the last time a non-PBS network program approached the quality level of a Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones or The Untold History of the United States? The very nature of networktainment insures idiocy: everything must be reduced to what is acceptable, even comprehensible, for a 9 year old, and the 9 year-old mentality of advertisers. So millions of adults are forced to watch dramas constrained content-wise to kiddie-TV standards. That's appalling.

Network news is a joke. Corporate shill Brian Williams will not tell you the real truth about anything.

Thus the only adult-level, truth-contented programming they are allowed to bring is sports. Cable/PPV and the net do everything else better.

Edited by Maruuk, 20 February 2013 - 12:12 PM.


#5 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 12:50 PM

Excellent article, phrelin.

I think the future of broadcast is a synergistic one, more like NBC than CBS. CBS wins for now because they have more programs with mass market appeal but broadcast in and of itself is becoming less important. It won't be long before we'll see pay TV programming approach broadcast's ratings consistently and streaming will become more and more important.

So, let's say that the real endgame for broadcast is to provide programming of national interest that appeals to the largest number of people within 3-7 days. On the other hand, pay TV's model will be to provide programs that generate a high level of anticipation (in other words, appointment TV), while IPTV will appeal to those playing catchup. That's almost where we are now.

To be clearer, broadcast will be for American Idol, pay for new episodes of Mad Men and IPTV for catching up on Mad Men.

If that's to be the model that works, CBS will falter as their plan to provide quality television will simply prove less lucrative than Fear Factor in Space or whatever the hit unscripted show of 2023 is. By spreading its money around in every delivery method, NBCU will win.

Now NBCU just has to come up with shows people want to watch. I know for me... there's pretty much nothing.
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#6 OFFLINE   AntAltMike

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 01:00 PM

Yeah, what ever happened to quality network programming like The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan's Island, Hogan's Heroes. and Car 54 Where Are You?

#7 OFFLINE   Stuart Sweet

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 01:14 PM

Just bring back Walter Cronkite, that's all I ask.
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#8 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 02:08 PM

You could tell the writers on "30 Rock" had a hard coming up with shows absurd enough for Jack Donaghy to tout that wouldn't sound exactly like NBC's current lineup.

#9 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 02:12 PM

Excellent article, phrelin.

I think the future of broadcast is a synergistic one, more like NBC than CBS. CBS wins for now because they have more programs with mass market appeal but broadcast in and of itself is becoming less important. It won't be long before we'll see pay TV programming approach broadcast's ratings consistently and streaming will become more and more important.

So, let's say that the real endgame for broadcast is to provide programming of national interest that appeals to the largest number of people within 3-7 days. On the other hand, pay TV's model will be to provide programs that generate a high level of anticipation (in other words, appointment TV), while IPTV will appeal to those playing catchup. That's almost where we are now.

To be clearer, broadcast will be for American Idol, pay for new episodes of Mad Men and IPTV for catching up on Mad Men.

If that's to be the model that works, CBS will falter as their plan to provide quality television will simply prove less lucrative than Fear Factor in Space or whatever the hit unscripted show of 2023 is. By spreading its money around in every delivery method, NBCU will win.

Now NBCU just has to come up with shows people want to watch. I know for me... there's pretty much nothing.

In the end, I too think NBC is the model - the end of the broadcast TV model as it was established by 1958. It works for CBS now, but I don't think it can be sustained as the Baby Boom and older generation dies off. A Comcast-owned NBCU will focus on a cable-IPTV-sports channel model. Whether CBS Corporation with its sports channels and Showtime can continue to make the broadcast network viable without a strong IPTV presence is questionable. I never understood why Sumner Redstone and family split CBS Corporation off from the rest of Viacom. But I guess it has worked well for seven years.

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#10 ONLINE   jimmie57

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 03:39 PM

I don't know about the future but for right now I certainly record and watch a lot of CBS programs. Less of them on NBC and ABC.

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#11 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 04:19 PM

I don't know about the future but for right now I certainly record and watch a lot of CBS programs. Less of them on NBC and ABC.

You and I and the rest of the country based on ratings.

About that old 1958 economic model though, Charlie Ergen of Dish today said something interesting about the broadcast networks which are attacking his Hopper:

The problem, he said, isn’t that television commercials are inherently flawed but that there are too many of them and they’re not targeted well enough to be interesting to viewers. “I believe customers will watch meaningful advertising and they’ll be happy they’re paying less for programming as a result,” he said, but not as long as they have to sit through 18 minutes of spammy advertising every hour. “I don’t believe that’s a good model for us or sustainable for the networks.”

“You can fight change, or you can embrace change, as painful as it is sometimes,” he added. “When we see change is going to happen, we try to get in front of it so we can participate in it and we can try to shape it.”

As I skip through commercials we do stop to watch a few that look either amusing or interesting. What he's suggesting is that the channels offer targeted commercials using the data available from signal carriers - cable and satellite companies. I suppose that is technically feasible, but it also represents a potential revenue stream to the signal carriers.

That might help the CBS effort, but it won't help if as with NBC nobody's watching.

I do like that comparison of the current commercial system to spam, though.

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#12 OFFLINE   makaiguy

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 05:09 PM

Just bring back Walter Cronkite, that's all I ask.

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#13 OFFLINE   TomCat

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 06:18 PM

...But the future of broadcast network TV is either going to be the Sunday Night Football profit grab model NBC uses or the six-days-a-week model of CBS.

I will give you that due to their holdings each network may be striving for something different, but I really think it has much less to do with that, and much more to do with their fortunes. American Idol would have never existed if Rupert Murdoch's daughter was not a fan of the British version. He brought that in merely as a gift to her, not ever dreaming it would ever turn out to be the ratings and revenue bonanza it became. Without it, FOX today might find itself UNDER even the CW and Telefutura, looking up.

So by "fortunes" I mean how "fortunate" or "unfortunate" a particular network might be due to the ratings situation they find themselves in, at any particular time, which is rarely about being strategically clever and usually about being lucky. Everything in TV is a crap shoot; there is no real way to predict success. Do No Harm was a crap shoot, but Elementary was nearly as much of one, although it was a bit easier to predict their relative chances for success and why one might succeed where the other might fail; two ends of that crap shoot spectrum. But you never really know until game time, exactly who will be the fortunate one. It's about as predictable as a lightning strike or as reliable as buying a lottery ticket.

And it is a cyclical business. Warren Littlefield points out in his book "Top of the Rock" how NBC could get twice as much revenue on a Thursday night in the mid nineties as all the other (5 others at the time) major networks combined for the other 6 days of the week. They were on top, had the best shows, drew the most talent, made the most money by far, for a long time.

And look at them now. Run by "CableTown". No RCA, no GE. CBS, now cruising on top for some time, had points where they were at the bottom of the barrel. ABC nearly closed shop until they struck with the trifecta of Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey's Anatomy, all in the same season, and they are now in the upper middle of the pack, thanks to Lloyd Braun being able to make the right choices in development years earlier. FOX couldn't buy a rating point in 1987; Married With Children was mostly a rumor to most of the US. But they have won the ratings war many times in the last few years, and consistently win the 18-34 demo. You're up, you"re down, and little of that is under anyone's control.

Honestly, I think all networks are struggling to find any business model that works. Today's continuing business model from 1949 when you had a captive audience that was forced to sit through commercials to get to the program has been a dinosaur for decades now. It is a dying business, regardless of whatever clever business models emerge.

Look at radio; even newer technologies such as SiriusXM are seriously threatened by iTunes/iPod and Pandora and their ilk. They only survive on two things, the NFL contract and Howard Stern, who is about done. And HD radio is a useless joke. Radio is a mere shadow of its former self. So is the music industry, and so will be network TV. And there isn't a business model in the universe that can change that.
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#14 OFFLINE   mreposter

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 06:20 PM

One potential problem with the sports model for broadcast networks is that more and more sports is moving to dedicated cable channels. Prices are being bid up (the Dodgers rights went for something like 10x the price this year compared to their old TV contract.) and more and more teams are getting their own dedicated channels.

At some point NBC may not be able to afford the sports content they'd need to drive their schedule. If they're going to try this, they'd better move fast.
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#15 OFFLINE   TomCat

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 06:55 PM

When was the last time a non-PBS network program approached the quality level of a Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones or The Untold History of the United States? The very nature of networktainment insures idiocy: everything must be reduced to what is acceptable, even comprehensible, for a 9 year old, and the 9 year-old mentality of advertisers...

Vigorously disagree.

With apologies to Charles Dickens, it is the best of times as well as the worst of times. For every Here Comes Honey Boo Boo there is a The Good Wife. For every Jersey Shore there is a Suits. You need a working brain and the ability to pay attention to enjoy either The Good Wife or Suits, or a large number of other shows that have that kind of nuance and layering. What do you need to watch Storage Wars or Hoarders? Vital signs, and that is about all, although those are still worthy shows in many minds.

Of course that argument can also be made about CSI:Miami (cancelled, but at the time the most popular show in the world) or The Mentalist. Some times you just need to veg out and not have to do any heavy lifting, and those shows provide that. I am no more troubled by the fact that the movies that don't make money win all the awards as I am by the fact that the TV shows that not that many watch also win all the awards. There is something for everybody, and lots of those shows are just terrific. Who could complain about that?

The entertainment spectrum is a classic bell curve, with the finest shows watched by few, the worst shows watched by few, and those shows in the middle watched by everybody. Justified. Modern Family. Can't be beat, and occupy probably a higher position on that bell curve. Blue Bloods may be a lowest-common-denominator police procedural on one hand (although they handle that as well as anyone) but it is also the best family-themed (not oriented) show in recent memory; those Sunday dinner scenes are priceless.

I've got 8 TB of storage and I struggle to have room for all the great television out there, and much of that comes from network sources.

And I guess its all in what you like; I am not going to put my nose in the air about how terrible much of TV is, but I also never ever felt the impulse to watch any of the three "wonderful" shows you listed. Call me lowbrow, but I won't hear you because I will be busy watching the next Homeland or Breaking Bad.
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#16 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:14 PM

Exactly. Homeland and Breaking Bad. And Hell on Wheels and Mad Men and House of cards and many others, all on cable channels or streaming. None on broadcast TV.

As for the others, seen em all: either stultifying formulaic drivel (CSI: everything) or in the case of Justified, eh, it's ok, has some good moments. And the Good Wife is probably the best drama on broadcast but it just bores me. Well, she bores me. But I can see people getting into it. Parenthood had some good moments, but too many of the threads were manipulative and trite. Some were interesting and paid off. Uneven.

I watch maybe 2 or 3 broadcast shows a week. Though I have to take a shower after each one.

#17 OFFLINE   donbean

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 07:22 PM

i still watch survivor (cbs)
however the show to me is reduced to about 15 mins...
after the comercials , the intro part and most of the game play/challenges
whats left ? about 15 mins of the personal interaction on the island i like...
I still watch alot of tv series on regular type stations (abc cbs nbc) but most are reduced to a quick watch with alot of fast forwards ...........
I love sports and cant imagine life without watching the mets or jets or knicks but the way sports have drove up the price of tv is crazy and somethings gotta give sooner or later..............

#18 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 08:18 PM

The top show on cable last week (The Walking Dead) was beaten by five broadcast shows in total viewers (The Big Bang Theory, Person Of Interest, Two and a Half Men, American Idol-WEDNESDAY and American Idol-THURSDAY). The second highest show on cable (2013 NBA ALL STAR GAME) was beaten by fifteen broadcast shows. The third highest cable would not have placed in the top 25 broadcast.

Broadcast is not dead.

NBC was noticeably absent from the top 25 last week ... but declaring broadcast dead based on the weakest major network is a fallacy.

Perhaps NBCU needs to do something different with their broadcast outlet ... turn it in to the flagship network where "other content" airs on cable. Put their best content on NBC broadcasts but where are the NBCU channels in the cable ratings? They don't have a lot of "the best" (or at least the most popular) to work with.

Saturday morning (10am) episodes of Spongebob were #19 and #20 on cable. I'm not saying that broadcast does not have to worry about cable ... but broadcast is far from dead.

#19 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 02:14 PM

The top show on cable last week (The Walking Dead) was beaten by five broadcast shows in total viewers (The Big Bang Theory, Person Of Interest, Two and a Half Men, American Idol-WEDNESDAY and American Idol-THURSDAY). The second highest show on cable (2013 NBA ALL STAR GAME) was beaten by fifteen broadcast shows. The third highest cable would not have placed in the top 25 broadcast.

Broadcast is not dead.

NBC was noticeably absent from the top 25 last week ... but declaring broadcast dead based on the weakest major network is a fallacy.

Perhaps NBCU needs to do something different with their broadcast outlet ... turn it in to the flagship network where "other content" airs on cable. Put their best content on NBC broadcasts but where are the NBCU channels in the cable ratings? They don't have a lot of "the best" (or at least the most popular) to work with.

Saturday morning (10am) episodes of Spongebob were #19 and #20 on cable. I'm not saying that broadcast does not have to worry about cable ... but broadcast is far from dead.

You are right. Broadcast TV is not dead. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp along with a NAB-owned Congress has seen to that.

We all will get to pay an extra $15+ a month by 2020 for our local broadcast channels because they can't charge enough for advertising, partly because of DVR's and partly because younger people have no use for more than one local broadcast channel even in New York and Los Angeles, the Hopper notwithstanding. (Yes, theoretically we all "need" local news, it's just that younger people are getting it nearly exclusively from the internet and John Stewart while local stations lay off their news teams.)

I'm waiting for the next CBS negotiations with Dish which in my DMA will include the CBS O&O and the CBS half-owned The CW. If Fox is worth $1 plus another $1 or so for the local channel, CBS and the local channels by viewership should be worth $5 total particularly with The CW thrown in. The ABC local here is a Disney O&O and combined with ESPN leverage they should be worth $3. That leaves NBC, Univision, PBS, etc.

The thing is, if I have to pay $15± a month, I'd rather it all go to the broadcast networks converted to cable channels to use for programming. The half that goes to local broadcast channels is a waste, or at best far in excess of what it's worth. It's a nearly brain-dead economic model on life support paid for by "taxes" on you and me. And I call it "nearly brain-dead" because we're getting less and less creativity and news for our money and I call it "taxes" because it is a federally required welfare program for station owners.

Just my opinion, of course.

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#20 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 02:36 PM

NBC just finished FIFTH behind Univision in the latest sweeps. Broadcast is in a tailspin, in an out of control race to the bottom.

http://www.deadline....s-to-univision/

Surprising number of non-formulaic non-crime dramas in the NBC Fall lineup:

http://www.deadline....013-nbc-pilots/

Edited by Maruuk, 21 February 2013 - 02:45 PM.





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