NBC Hastens The Death Of Suit TV

Ending Tradition, NBC Dismisses Fall Debuts

It soon may be time to retire the phrase “fall television season.”

NBC Universal took a big step toward undoing one of the television industry’s oldest traditions by announcing Tuesday that it would move to a year-round schedule of staggered program introductions. The move is intended to appeal to advertisers, who crave fresh content to keep viewers tuned in.

And if it succeeds — and leads other broadcast networks to shift from their focus on a mass introduction of new shows — it could alter an American cultural cycle that extends all the way back to the days of radio, when families gathered around the Philco every September, as the school year began, to sample the new entertainment choices.

NBC plans to announce a 52-week schedule in April, a month before ABC and CBS will unveil their fall lineups at splashy presentations known as upfronts. The decision means that NBC will be committing to a new lineup of shows earlier than any of its competitors, while also inviting advertisers to build marketing plans around specific shows and perhaps to integrate brands and products into the plots of the shows themselves.

“We absolutely think this is going to change the industry,” said Michael Pilot, the head of sales for NBC. That was one of the goals cited by Jeff Zucker, the president and chief executive of NBC Universal, in comments he has made recently about how the strike by Hollywood writers could create opportunities to change some of the ways networks do business.

Let’s get something straight here. Jeff Zucker is not a creative person. His “contribution” to the history of TV was his desperate attempt to hang onto aging NBC programs because he lacked the ability to select new ones. He held onto those show by inflating the salaries of the stars to precedent-setting levels. He also Super-Sized shows. Thus, he goes down in history as the worst person ever to influence primetime network television. His reign was even worse than the NBC swan-song of Fred Silverman, who redefined FAIL with Supertrain.

Now he is murdering a tradition of TV.

This is how his tiny mind probably reasoned this out: “Look at YouTube. It has new stuff all the time. And we in TV have to compete with that. Ergo, we should have new stuff all the time too.”

FAIL!

At some point, the few non-NBC production companies that actually create programs will avoid NBC like the plague it is remaking itself to be. Most TV programs run in what is called deficit financing. They count on foreign and especially syndication (off-network) sales to recoup all production costs and to turn a profit.

NBC’s clear-FAIL policy of “all new all the time” means that programs will drop like flies as they constantly sink in the ratings against series on other networks. NBC will wind up running 4 episodes of one series, six of another, maybe 9 of another. Fail, fail, fail in the ratings. And those series will be financial losses to the non-NBC studios that produced them. This will leave NBC with no one but NBC itself to produce its programming (NBC owns Universal Studios, don’t forget).

Zucker could not get away with this if the FCC hadn’t permitted TV networks to produce their own programming. That change in the rules just about destroyed independent production companies. It caused veteran (and very successful!) TV producer Stephen J. Cannell to leave the industry while he could still get a price for his business. He is now a mystery/crime fiction novelist.

NBC has remade The Bionic Woman. It is remaking Knight Rider. Both were series originally from outside producer Universal Television. Which NBC now owns. See how the game has been rigged? And remakes are a sign of creative bankruptcy. It’s not as if every possible story in the history of humanity has been told and, like TV, have to go into repeats.

Zucker doesn’t give a damn for NBC or for TV. All along he has been angling to be the new Jack Welch. His final ambition is to lead General Electric, which owns NBC. (GE once owned NBC and had to divest itself under government rules. Rules that were erased when Reagan came along.) The only thing Jeff Zucker understands is money.

And no amount of money can buy a successful TV series.

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Press 1 For FAIL, Press 2 for FAIL, Press 3 for FAIL …

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