An NBC logo hangs in a window of the NBC Experience store in New York, NY in 2009 (© Daniel Acker-Bloomberg via Getty Images)
NBC, the once-proud peacock, is finding its plumage rather tattered this winter. 

After starting off the TV season with a strong fall, NBC has suffered from a series of poor programming decisions that have left it in a humiliating spot: For the first time ever, NBC will come in fifth place in a sweeps period, behind even Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.

The swift decline comes at a poor time for Comcast (CMCSA), which earlier this month showed its confidence in NBC Universal by agreeing to buy the remaining 49% stake of the media company that General Electric (GE) still owned.

Yes, NBC is just one unit of NBC Universal, which also owns cable networks and a movie studio. But its struggles raise concerns about how NBC's advertising rates and profits might suffer, and whether the network can recover later this year.

So, how did NBC fall from first place in September to dead last in February? Here are four missteps:

Delaying NBC's real hits: Rather mystifyingly, the network postponed the return of several of its bona fide hits until March. Remember "Revolution," the sci-fi drama that had people talking last September? No? That's because it has taken a four-month hiatus. "Grimm," another one of NBC's hits, was given the same break and hasn't aired a new episode since November. 

Poor promotion: Regardless of the show's quality, "Do No Harm" -- which scored the lowest in-season premiere rating for a top-four broadcast -- suffered from poor advertising, according to Deadline.com. Few viewers were aware of the show, and its promotional art made the lead actor unrecognizable. 

Messing with OK shows: As the old adage says, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. NBC decided to "fix" a few shows, leading to one spectacular breakdown: The sitcom "Up All Night" is now on death watch. Once perceived as a promising comedy, the show was overhauled and was set to be taped in front of a live audience. Then its co-star, Christina Applegate, quit, and its other co-star, Will Arnett, signed on for a CBS pilot.

Sticking with broken shows: "Smash" had a rocky first season, but was renewed with NBC chief Bob Greenblatt calling it an "unqualified success." Er, not so much. The musical, which is expensive to produce, has continued to see audience erosion in its second season and is now likely to be canceled, according to TVbytheNumbers.com.

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