It's not completely insane to bring 30 Rock back again, despite the continued appearance of low ratings overall. For NBC, the last place broadcast network (unless you count the CW), it doesn't have to aim high. 30 Rock is definitely one of my favorite shows, but I know that a lot of people don't like it. It is, after all, as of the most recent season-to-date averages only the 117th ranked show on the broadcast airwaves, with an overall household ratings of 3.9.
It fares a bit better in the 18-49 demo, where it's ranked 64th with an 18-49 rating of 2.8. But so far all of these numbers are LIVE+SD (same day DVR viewing). Nielsen also provides the LIVE+7 days of DVR data. When I look at what Nielsen refers to as "Most Current" which includes available LIVE+7 data - it's pretty interesting.
30 Rock doesn't change much in the rankings. It moves from 117th to 109th and from 64th in the 18-49 demo to 61st, but, it jumps from a 2.8 to a 3.1 in the 18-49 demo. It might not seem like much, but it's a 10+% improvement, that little .3.
Of course advertisers don't want to buy outside of 3 days DVR viewing, but a.) we don't get any numbers reported like that and much more importantly b.) as DVR traffic increases, which it surely will, the networks are struggling like crazy to figure out how to sell it.
I don't want to go off on a huge DVR tangent here, but it probably in the short-term spells even more unscripted shows because the general trend is most people who watch unscripted shows on their DVRs watch them early. Some of the shows (like American Idol) like American Idol and Survivor often have around 70% of their DVR viewing occur the same night that the show airs whereas scripted dramas like Eli Stone and Lipstick Jungle have often have less than 30% of their DVR viewing happen on the same night.
Even Nielsen is seeking to support the DVR ad sales, buying a biometric research company recently whose task seemingly is only to prove that people actually somehow, someway watch commercials on their DVR even if they are fast-fowarding through commercials. If they figure out a way to get advertisers to suck it up, that little .3 becomes real dollars.
There are other factors to consider. 30 Rock is critically acclaimed. It's the exact opposite of what will probably go down with Knight Rider (critics will trash it, but people will watch it). NBC isn't going to have much going on with its fall schedule that will be in the realm of "critical acclaim". Plus, it's an insider-y show on multiple levels. First, it's a comical look at what goes on behind the scenes of producing a television show. Secondly, it completely pokes fun at both NBC and its parent GE. That makes the executives at NBC and GE feel good. And while Jeff Zucker probably doesn't usually make make the programming decisions, I'd bet he had a big say with this one.
DVD sales are unknown, but it's also a revenue stream. NBC killed off whatever little pay-per-view revenue it had when it bolted off iTunes for the greener (ha!) pastures of Amazon Unbox. I'm guessing that's costing them more with The Office than 30 Rock, but that's a post for another day.
Also, with another season or two (without the writer's strike, just the upcoming season would have been enough) it makes sense in syndication on NBC's own USA Network and elsewhere. And then there's this little data point, and I hate to bring CBS' Les Moonves into a discussion about NBC and 30 Rock, but not enough where I won't do it anyway. Les decries there are no "affluent 18-34" year olds other than his children who apparently can't afford to buy a car without hitting dad up.
It was humorous as he said it (and you can watch for yourself on Business Week) but what this really was, was obfuscation. CBS has old viewers and tries to sell them, one thing that makes it easier to sell is making people believe there aren't any wealthy viewers besides older viewers.
What's "affluent"? To Moonves, an affluent 18-34 year old is Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook. When Les' kids come asking for a car, it's not "Dad, can I have the money for a Nissan Altima please?" But when you consider that only around 20% of the households in the United States have a household income of over $100,000 a year, that whole ~20% and not just the teeny tiny portion that includes the Moonves and Zuckerberg households is all considered affluent (versus the other 80% of the country).
I bring any of this up because there is a difference between not any and not many, and that difference is big enough for Nielsen to measure. I haven't seen any yet this year, but last year I distinctly remember seeing a press release come out of ABC stating that Boston Legal, the 50th program overall, was the #3 program among 18-49 year olds with household income over $100K. And 30 Rock? While 30 Rock was the 139th show overall last season, it was like #9 on the list of 18-49 viewers with HH income greater than $100,000. I can't locate the original data so I'm not sure it was #9, but it was in the top 20 and if you can go from 139th to the top 20 of the rich list, sales people will be able to sell the ads - I'm not sure 30 Rock did that well in the over $100K demo this year, but it was 139th overall last year and 117th this year, so it's not unreasonable to think it again scored well in the six figure income demo.
Bringing 30 Rock back just doesn't seem that crazy, especially for last place NBC.