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NBC's got a ratings situation on its hands


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.

Comments () | Archives (16)

NBC renewed that stupid show 'Outsourced'.

You know, that show that reminds all the Unemployed people in this country that their job was shipped to India for under-qualified, cheaper labor.

As long as that show is on the air, I hope NBC ratings keep plummeting.

'The Office' also has a problem: it is no longer funny (a major reason Steve Carrell is leaving). The Michael Scott character has become tragic and sad. The Jim and Pam storyline became boring the moment they got married. Ed Helms and Rainn Wilson are the only funny actors left, but can't carry the show.

Bring back Parks and Recreation. Quick.

When are the industry execs and media who cover the industry going to realize that RATINGS DON'T MATTER any more. The size of a show's total viewership (DVR, Itunes/Ipad/Iphone, Hulu, other online, DVD, etc.) is pretty hard to calculate these days because of all the different ways people consume entertainment. So this article is basically much ado about nothing, as the decline in NBC's ratings says a lot more about the changing state of the American entertainment consumer then it does about the quality of the NBC lineup. In fact, because NBC's audience trends a little more upscale/urban, (a population with higher DVR and high-speed internet penetration) their ratings might be more negatively affected by this technology transition then their competitors.

The baseball game was on and Fringe wasn't on either! No one ever asks me what I'm watching! How do they get these numbers?!! There are a lot of good shows this season that are all at the same time..if you are a Time Warner customer with a DVR, you can only record 2 at the same time and then watch a pre-recorded show, not a live show.

Look, any show that aims at an audience with an IQ above Snooki's eventually is going to bottom out in the ratings, because the audience is watching it off a DVR or online. The whole advertising-ratings-appointment TV thing is done. Go to a subscription model. That way I can get my shows and news without having to pay for Fox News. If the only shows on network TV are going to be autopsy porn and real-life riffraff, I'll be very happy to read books and online content or go to a play. Advertisers can find me on Facebook or point-of-purchase.

My personal belief is the real issue is how the ratings are polled. I watch all four comedies every Thursday night faithfully...most of my co-workers do as well. I also view them again and again on Hulu throughout the following week and I purchase every available espisode of 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Outsourced on Zune for my portable entertainment needs.
I can't do much better than that in the way of support for my favorite shows. Yet, I am not polled...I am not a participant in any ratings service and no one seeks out my opinion for television programs. Am I not the ideal viewer?
Finally NBC has a two hour block of Thursday shows I am willing to sit through and I have to read in your publication that they may all be at risk for cancellation.

When does the polling system get corrected? How are ratings measured? Who is tracking these broadcasts? If everyone I know or work with are watching these shows, then why are the ratings so bad?

They say nobody watched King Of The Hill, yet it ran for nearly thirteen full seasons before finally being set to pasture. They claim there are no willing DVD consumers for the remaining seven unreleased seasons of KOTH, yet there are endless blogs of people asking when or if they'll ever come out for sale....Am I missing something?
The problem is the tracking system, not the shows...

NBC got to smart and greedy for its own good. These shows are not that great. Most of them are trying to mimic the office, a nine year old show. They have allready seen bringing back Jay Leno was a goof-up. So good for all the inside know it alls that run NBC. Enjoy you lunch at the IVY.

Cancel critical darlings. No more of this 'Chuck', 'Parks & Recreation' , '30 Rock' (30R, which got SPANKED by a new episode of a fluffy kids sitcom 'iCarly'!). Sure, you can crow about the "nouveau riche" advertisers you got for 30R, but what's it really getting you????

Outlaw was actually a good show - Smits is good. What the networks should do is quit hiring Jerry O'Connell for ANYTHING - his new show "The Defenders" with Jim Belushi is OK, but O'Connell is a death sentance for any show that hires him - has he ever made it past 3 or 4 episodes? Wake up folks - this guy is a horrible actor. Bring back Outlaw - it's on Friday night, which is the last call corral anyway - there is nothing to watch Friday night in that timeslot this is any good. It might not get great ratings, but some people don't like 20/20 or Dateline (I do, but some people would rather watch a half decent series).

Not very surprising - the live 30 Rock was one of the more painful, and not funny, things I've seen in a while. Just like SNL.

"30 Rock" has gotten just a little too stupid. And boring.

Definitely a polling problem, at least in part (I've never seen an ad for 30 Rock that made me want to watch it). I work on Thursday nights so I can't tune in on TV, but I've never missed a single episode of 30 Rock or Community - I catch them the next day on Hulu. I've also purchased favorite episodes of these shows on iTunes and favorite seasons on DVD. Is there really no way to track total viewer loyalty? This is 2010!

"NBC's got a ratings situation on its hands"

Hmm, I wonder if their writers studied English in the same school system as this writer?

1) 40% of the time is commercials

2) When they aren't in commercial, they are covering the screen with ads

3) The never-resolved serialized storylines & cliffhangers.

4) The utter contempt which the programmers have for their audience.

The broadcast networks may already be past the point where they can rebuild their appeal to a mass audience. Instead of making themselves a first-stop destination, they copied the worst traits of the cable networks; which in turn, have turned out first-rate programming.

Comedy is slumping. Sitcoms slid in the 1970's and have declined since. The improv approach, so fresh in the early days of SNL, has turned into actors trying to crack up each other instead of the audience (where's Del Close when we really need him?) -- heart of the problem on NBC Thursday. New talent is a real problem when comedy clubs want potty-mouthed grossout artists instead of funny people -- the Dice Effect has taken its toll, closing many clubs in the hinterlands. Where could Bob Newhart work if he came up today? It may be time for the sitcom to go the way of the Western and variety show. "The Soup" probably costs 10 percent as much to produce, and it's twice as funny. PBS music shows are funnier, too — "Andre Rieu in 10 Exotic Poses" -- but it's unintentional.

NBC moved the wrong show to the 8:30 (eastern) slot. "The Office" should have moved there, opening up the 9:00 slot for the still relevant "30 Rock" , allowing it to build further and lead into a strong 9:30 program. "Outsourced" is not that program. It's hopelessly tedious and incredibly unfunny with a basic concept built upon a "loss of work to foreigners" premise presently despised nationwide.

The writing on "The Office" continues to slide and that program is spiraling to a needed conclusion. The falling ratings for "Office" should be a good indication that Steve Carell does not need a successor. When he exits, the show will be finished - whether it returns with a Carell replacement or not. Also, "Community"is much too weak to lead off the night at 8:00. "Parks and Rec" wasn't any better.

"Outsource" is the funny show on that netwoork block for the night. Cancel the rest!


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