TV Week published a longish interview with NBC chief Jeff Zucker today. Kudos to TV Week for not lobbing Zucker complete softballs. I found the whole interview interesting from his use of the word ‘panoply' to saying NBC only looks at 18-49 performance to saying they don't focus on ratings and it's not because there's no outsized hit but because the difference between being 1st and 4th is incredibly minimal.
While we can wonder if the difference is all that minimal when you actually have an outsized hit (ask FOX, even with a waning Idol), but Zucker is probably correct for most timeslots. Then again it's pretty clear that NBC generates less TV advertising revenue from its broadcast network during primetime than CBS, FOX or ABC. But Zucker's comments about managing margins by putting on shows that are less expensive to make a lot of sense. Based on NBC's 2008-2009 schedule it certainly does not appear NBC is motivated towards finding any out-sized hits.
I recommend clicking the link above and reading the full interview, but here's a snippet on selling the Super Bowl ads at a 10% premium vs. last year:
TVWeek: A 10% starting price increase to $3 million for a Super Bowl spot? How was that decided? And how much do you think the last-minute spots will go for?
Mr. Zucker: I'm not going to suggest-I don't know what the last spots will go for. Look, it is clear the Super Bowl is the preeminent program in all forms of popular culture, and the advertising prices are set according to what the market will bear. It's clear that there's nothing anywhere in the same league with the Super Bowl, and that's how the rates get set.
The 10% increase isn't very surprising (arbitrary perhaps, but not surprising) but it comes on the heels of the most-watched Super Bowl ever! A feat that will be particularly hard to pull off in consecutive years, unless against all odds, one of the participants is again 18-0 going into the final game.
Here's the Silicon Alley Insider's take from Michael Learmonth.