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Zucker Gives Up: "I don't think we'll ever be able to say, 'NBC is No. 1 in prime time."

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March 19th, 2009

I theorized that the move to put Jay Leno at 10pm every weeknight indicated that NBC was giving up on competing in prime-time.

Now Jeff Zucker has confirmed it (via MediaPost):

"What does No. 1 in prime time mean anymore?" he asked, adding that the traditional measuring stick has lost relevance.

"I don't think we'll ever be able to say, 'NBC is No. 1 in prime time,'" Zucker said at an industry event.

He's falling back on his (and Ben Silverman's "aggregate viewing") canard. Problem is, today everything but traditional TV advertising is pennies, and it's not clear NBC will do any better than the competition in the years to come when it is significant.

DVRs, online video and other factors have moved the needle. A more appropriate metric is aggregate viewing across on-air, online, VOD, iTunes, etc.--a gauge where the NBC hit "The Office" performs well.

He compares NBC w/ Leno to Fox. Difference being, Fox has been #1 for many years in the important adult advertising demos (and last year with the WGA strike in average viewers as well):
Still, he said the Leno move is not a white flag--just a reaction to new dynamics. "We're not proclaiming defeat," he said. "I don't think anyone thinks Fox is any less of a network because they program two hours in prime time."

Even so, he does admit the current position NBC is in.

"Sometimes, you see the world more clearly when you're flat on your back," he said.

Perhaps claiming that the entire broadcast TV business is in the tank makes your sad position in it more excusable.

But he said the broadcasting industry needs "to be honest" with itself about the hurdles it faces and not "wish it were 1987."

Lots more of the Zucker wisdom to be found at MediaPost 

 
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