How NBC stumbled into 5th place

The network's recent ratings slide is a blow to parent company Comcast. Here are 4 ways the Peacock blew it.

By Aimee Picchi Feb 22, 2013 2:59PM

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 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

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Feb 22, 2013 3:53PM

The networks need to put on some programming that is interesting, you can learn something, and isn't full of gays dancing around.

Feb 22, 2013 3:53PM
Her is an excellent place to discuss media biases. Yes MSNBC is liberal news media and liberal media has been pis- off at the world ever since communism fail in east Europe and Russia. It is pro Obama, pro socialism, pro government. However, let's get to conservative news media, Fox news, Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs. The federal reserve is a Ponzi scheme, it is there to protect the rich. Have you ever heard them criticize the fed. Our congress is owned by vested interest groups, banking, energy, commutations, agriculture, etc. here are government programs for the rich that we do not need and we would be better off if without them. Have you ever heard conservative media attach these folks.
Feb 22, 2013 3:52PM
GE screwed this pooch first.  One thing is consistent in the business world regardless if the company is winning or failing - the results and accountability for them rests completely in the leadership.  While the circumstances are unfortunate for Comcast (due diligence snafu??) there is ultimately one place to look in this instance; Jeff Immelt.
Feb 22, 2013 3:47PM
The founding fathers knew the importance of a free press to ensure the people received honest, truthful, and accurate news about their leaders and governments dealings. We have completely lost our free press in this country, every TV news agency, cable news, radio, news paper, magazine, and talk show has been bought out or in an attempt to get ratings is pushing one side’s agenda or the other. Everything is so slanted, twisted, or spun the entire country seems lost and confused about any and all issues facing this nation. We are completely paralyzed as a nation because no one has any idea what the truth is anymore. Just look around this Web site or any other site, read a few of the comments people are writing if you need an example, and I have no idea how we as a nation are going to fix this.
Feb 22, 2013 3:45PM
When the liberal news people falsify facts, re-invent history, engage in biased reporting, do subtle hit pieces on the republican candidates and campaign rallies for the democrat candidates, it results in a substantial loss of credibility and  clearly shows that the network is a mere shell of a legitimate organization.
Feb 22, 2013 3:42PM
Wow, I am shocked.  Liberal a$$holes
Feb 22, 2013 3:40PM
Have you thought about all the bad publicity they are getting from the more conservative audience? NBC went from being edgy to being offensive. Some viewers, like myself, and who is not a hardcore Christian shy away from some of their shows.
Feb 22, 2013 3:32PM
One of the main reasons NBC has fallen so quickly and fast is not mentioned here.  Probably because this article is written by a far left Liberal. But the news section of NBC has been caught in several recent edit of news to make news look more positive toward the left and more negative toward the right. Actually they should have their FCC right revoked for some of the false news they have been carrying. But I am sure those incidents have much to do with the ratings fall and pushes more people to watch FOX where they are more neatrual and you can see both sides of the srgument there.
Feb 22, 2013 3:30PM

I don't understand how some of NBC's comedies haven't been able to capture an audience.  "30 Rock" (which wrapped the series up a few weeks ago) and "Parks and Recreation" are/were both some of the smartest written comedies.


Meanwhile, CBS comedies like "Big Bang" and "Two and a Half Men", whose setup-punchline-laughtrack jokes you can see coming a mile away, continue to dominate in the ratings.


Maybe the average American really doesn't have the attention span to appreciate the more a subtle, understated style of humor.  I mean, "Arrested Development" couldn't even make it through 3 full seasons.

Feb 22, 2013 3:29PM
The worst news site around, they don't even deny how bias they are....
Feb 22, 2013 3:29PM
There are 0 shows that interest me on NBC.  They're all mostly terrible.  Nothing can compete with what is on AMC/HBO (Walking Dead, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire).  
Feb 22, 2013 3:26PM

When Anne Curri was let go, I wondered..."Who made that decision?"

She had, in my opinion, more journalistic talent than the rest of the crew.

That's when I stopped tuning in to NBC in the morning

Feb 22, 2013 3:23PM

Maybe it has something to do with being up Oblamo's *ss all the time..

Feb 22, 2013 3:17PM
For an example just look around this so called news site.......the place is a complete joke.
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