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Monday, April 25, 2021

first goal
Back in 1997, NBC was flying high. It had the lion’s share of hit prime-time shows like “Seinfeld” and “Friends”, and was leading the field in those cash-cow zones of morning news programs and late-night entertainment. So the Peacock Network could comfortably spurn the NFL when it came time to renew its broadcasting deal to the tune of $4 billion for eight years.

Fast forward to 2005: With the loss of “Friends” and the resurgence of programming on other networks, NBC has plummetted from first place to fourth, and is more than happy to get back into the NFL business with $600 million for six years of Sunday Night Football.

In some ways, ponying up less than $1 billion for NFL rights is a bargain, and in line with NBC’s philosophy of putting minimal investments into sports programming. And confining football to Sunday nights minimizes the potential disruption to other show on the network’s schedule, in cases of overtime, etc.

But let’s get real. NBC’s got tepid Arena Football broadcasts and the crash-and-burn spectacle of the XFL as examples of what happens when you try to sub in Brand X for the NFL. Being left out of television’s premiere sporting even left a huge hole in NBC’s roster, depriving it of a failsafe foundation.

As long as the primetime schedule performed, there was little to worry about. But, even though fortunes can turn over in a hurry, the current prognosis for NBC isn’t good: They haven’t found a “Friends” successor (“Joey”? Don’t make me laugh — which would be more than the show itself can do), and other standbys like “ER” are sputtering toward death. Despite still being number one in the mornings, “Today” is facing serious competition from ABC’s “Good Morning America”, enough so that NBC took preemptive action by shuffling producers in the hopes of injecting new life. About the only area that’s going right is late-night, and that’s as much due to complacency by David Letterman and CBS as to anything that NBC is actually doing right with Leno and O’Brien.

So now, NBC is forced to go back to partnering with the NFL, just to combat “Desperate Housewives”. It’s a bit pathetic. Shows you how vital big-league sports are in today’s TV programming mix.

If nothing else, just getting a Super Bowl out of the deal should pay off for NBC. We’ll see if it helps reverse the overall slide.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/25/2005 09:25:34 AM
Category: Football, TV
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9 Feedbacks
  1. Maybe we’ll see Law & Order: NFL Paternity Test Unit soon.

    Comment by David — 04/25/2005 @ 04:03:16 PM

  2. NO! It’ll be Law & Order: Steroids Testing Unit!

    BTW: $600M is the same amount ESPN was paying for it’s Sunday Night lineup…and NBC gets TWO SUPER BOWLS as part of the deal! Wonder whose wheels are getting greased?!?

    Comment by Robert — 04/25/2005 @ 06:41:29 PM

  3. That lack of Super Bowls for ABC is curious. I was looking to see if ESPN’s Monday Night package didn’t, in fact, include at least one Super Bowl for corporate sibling ABC; that doesn’t appear to be the case. Unless I’m missing something, I’d say that Disney pretty much got hosed here. They might be able to recoup if they snag that late-season Thursday and Saturday broadcast package that the league is thinking about putting on NFL Network…

    Comment by CT — 04/25/2005 @ 07:46:46 PM

  4. NBC looks to close the nightly gap
    Costa Tsiokos calls NBC’s move to get the Sunday Night Football package starting in 2006 “pathetic” as it reflects on television network competition. As in, look what they had to do just to get in the game against what ABC…

    Trackback by The Media Drop — 04/26/2005 @ 12:13:50 AM

  5. I think NBC made the right choice in putting Sunday Night Football on their primetime schedule. NBC has not had a very good history on sunday nights with exception to some high rated movies in the past. The NFL has proven to be a winner for ESPN with an average of 7 to 8 million viewers of the target male audience not to mention General Electric is gonna make big bucks with lighting, investment services, and insurance packages with exclusive rights presented by the NFL. And then there is flexable scheduling. If you ask me this isn’t a gamble for NBC, it’s an investment opportunity that can’t lose. I hope NBC has great success and hope to see Sunday Night Football on NBC for the next 35 years.

    Comment by Brian — 05/05/2021 @ 09:04:13 PM

  6. That can’t-lose quality about the NFL was just as true 8 years ago, when NBC dumped football. So why did they abandon it in the first place?

    My point is the hubris that NBC is now experiencing. The high ground it formerly occupied is now gone with the ratings, and they’re forced to eat their words about bucking the trend and not investing in big-league sports at the same levels as other networks. They paid to get the NFL, so that former philosophy is out the window — and the willingness to abandon it indicates how shallow the conviction was to begin with.

    35 years? Never happen in this age of multiple broadcast/cable/next-thing channels. There’s always going to be an outside bidder when the current deal expires, and the leagues go where the money is. NBC could just as easily pass on the next round of broadcast dealing again, or opt for a different package.

    Comment by CT — 05/05/2021 @ 10:10:07 PM

  7. 8 years ago, paying $500 million per-season was rediculously high for a network. That high price trend started with CBS turning down the NFC package to Fox, because Fox was barely a network until it got the NFL. I think NBC finally saw the light and was eager to link itself with a winning team (referring to the NFL).

    Going back to your questionable 35 years comments, NBC will have first negotiating rights from here on out for Sunday Nights, and if proved profitable they will keep renewing no matter what the increase in price to carry the packages as long as it is profitable. ABC dropped Monday night because of an anual $150 million loss. And now you have one of its subsidaries paying an astounding $1.1 billion a year. If you ask me in this shuffling of networks, NBC got the better deal and the 2006 season will tell weather Sunday Night Football will be a permanent fixture on NBC. I know the NBC affiliates are extatic on the notion that they will have primetime football, while ABC affiliates are horrified at the notion of no Monday night football. Losing primetime football could not have happened to a better network. GO NBC!!

    Comment by Brian — 05/10/2021 @ 02:59:11 PM

  8. The sole reason NBC “saw the light” is because their ratings tanked. If “Friends” was still on, and a couple of their other series hit big, NBC might be leading the ratings this year, and they would have continued their NFL-free existence.

    It’s a completely short-sighted strategy. Because they’re down at the moment, they toss their low-investment sports strategy out the window, based solely on a single-year (really partial-year) result. That’s what I find most amusing about this whole thing.

    The Fox example only proves my point. As Fox built itself up with the help of the NFL, CBS went through a prolonged ratings slump that didn’t ease up until it, in turn, snatched the AFC from NBC. I took note of all this on the 10th anniversary of Fox’s NFL deal, including NBC’s eventual need to get back into major sports.

    Again, those 35 years ain’t gonna happen, regardless of performance. NBC’s deal doesn’t include exclusive negotiating rights, so that’s a moot point. Even if that were true, it wouldn’t matter: The NFL is under no obligation to deal only with its existing broadcast partner. It takes two to tango. In fact, it’s in the league’s best interest to solicit multiple bids to drive up the price, conditions, etc. And long-term, there’s always the NFL Network, which the league could one day make the exclusive home of its games, bypassing the need for a television partner altogether (seems unlikely now, but maybe not so crazy in another 20 years). In short, it’s not NBC’s call — it’s the NFL’s really.

    As for NBC’s affiliates: They might be happy right now. Let’s see how they react when the network increases their affiliation fees to pay for the NFL deal; that was a frequent gripe for the other networks’ stations in the wake of newly-inked sports deals.

    Comment by CT — 05/10/2021 @ 07:05:52 PM

  9. WHAT MADE MNF UNIQUE

    Yes, tonight’s the night: Monday Night Football, the NFL’s signature show, is leaving broadcast TV after 36 years. Appropriately enough, the final game, between New England and the New York Jets, is as meaningless as MNF has become.
    I di…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 12/26/2005 @ 11:47:55 PM

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