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NBC's got a ratings situation on its hands

October 22, 2010 | 12:30 pm

30rock

Every now and then a number leaps out.

Friday morning it was the size of NBC's Thursday's night audience. On a night that NBC owned for decades, the network averaged less than 5 million viewers. To put it into some context, more people watched antics of Snookie and The Situation on the season finale of MTV's "Jersey Shore" than NBC averaged for the evening. The CW was only 1.5 million viewers behind NBC. Both MTV and the CW are available in far fewer homes than NBC. Univision could soon have more viewers on average than NBC.

It's not like the network was in rerun mode. It had new episodes of its critical darlings "Community," "30 Rock" and "The Office," all of which seem to have more followers on Twitter than they do viewers on the network.

SITUATION Of course, NBC's prime time woes are no secret and sadly this is not even the first time that it has attracted fewer than 5 million viewers on Thursday or that "Jersey Shore" outperformed it. Now though it seems to be becoming such a regular occurrence that it barely registers on people who look at ratings every day. The numbers also can't be blamed solely on Fox's coverage of the baseball playoffs.

Thursday is hardly NBC's only trouble spot, but it is jarring even given all the well-publicized attention the network's problems have gotten over the last few years to see how far NBC has fallen on a night that was once home to its legendary hits including "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "ER".

NBC has ordered additional episodes and scripts for many of its new shows, most of which are failing to connect with viewers. The only show it has given a hook to was the Jimmy Smits legal drama "Outlaw."

With the football season almost halfway over, NBC will face even bigger programming challenges in a couple of months. The network's Sunday night NFL coverage delivers a huge number that somewhat masks the giant holes elsewhere.

Comcast in the process of acquiring NBC Universal and soon the performance of the network may be someone else's problem. Perhaps the gang from KableTown has some better ideas than the gang at 30 Rock.

-- Joe Flint

Photos: Top: NBC's "30 Rock." Credit: Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC. Right: Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino of MTV's Jersey Shore. Credit: Chris Pizzello/Associated Press.

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