Ever since the era of “must see TV” ended, NBC has acquired the stigma of being a network on the decline. While shows like Law & Order and The Office still brought in decent ratings and comedies like Community and 30 Rock earned critical acclaim, the once dominant Peacock just couldn’t seem to approach the heights of national ubiquity once enjoyed by ’90s hits like ER and Seinfeld. In the last few years, NBC has approached the level of an outright laughing stock, with its crumbling ratings becoming the butt of many jokes.
That was until the 2013-2014 broadcast season. Just last year, NBC ended the 2012-2013 season by declining 4% in the advertiser coveted demographic of adults 18-49, and coming in third overall for the year behind CBS and FOX. The 2013-2014 season saw the network shoot up an applause-worthy 13% in the 18-49 demo, taking the #1 spot in that category for the first time in ten years. Not coincidentally, the 2003-2004 season saw NBC say goodbye to both Friends and Frasier, two of its last really huge hits. As if that wasn’t enough, NBC’s total viewer audience for the 2013-2014 season increased by a massive 33%.
As the old saying goes, to the victor go the spoils, and NBC is laughing all the way to the bank. The rejuvenated Peacock just wrapped upfront ad sales for the 2014-2015 season, bringing in a hulking 2.5 billion dollars in revenue. That’s an 11% increase from last year, and represents the largest year to year rise for NBC so far this decade.
Now, to be fair, NBC did have a pretty big trump card in its deck this year. The Sochi Winter Olympics dominated the ratings for most of February 2014, and definitely played a large hand in NBC’s demo increase. That said, even if you exclude Olympic coverage, NBC still comes out on top. The margin of victory may not be as large when looked at that way, but rising from third to first place in one year is a huge accomplishment regardless.
Another arrow in NBC’s quiver was weekend juggernaut Sunday Night Football, easily the season’s highest rated program among adults 18-49. Would NBC have done so well without the NFL? Maybe not, but show business at the end of the day is just that, a business. NBC has paid the NFL millions upon millions of dollars to hold onto Sunday Night Football, and that investment is reaping massive rewards.
The non-sports side of NBC programming made great strides this past season as well, with new shows like The Blacklist, Chicago P.D. and About A Boy greatly improving on the network’s scripted average. Incoming hosts Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers have more than maintained NBC’s late night dominance, drawing in a younger audience in the process. NBC’s reality lineup is also rock solid, with The Voice all but picking up the torch dropped by FOX’s flagging American Idol.
Sure, NBC still saw its fair share of burnouts this season, with veteran shows like Community and Revolution falling far enough to earn a cancellation, and new series like Believe, Crisis, The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World going unwatched by the majority of the population. That still doesn’t change the fact that NBC actually created a few new scripted hits this season, something it has been struggling to do for quite a long time.
So, NBC has finally done it. They’ve climbed back to the top of the TV industry mountain. The real test will be to see if they can stay there. This could indeed be a fluke. If the network’s fall lineup tanks, or existing hits like The Voice and The Blacklist hit slumps, NBC could easily end up back in third place yet again. To paraphrase Han Solo, NBC shouldn’t get cocky. They may have the upper hand now, but that doesn’t mean they’ll win the battle, much less the war.
NBC’s fall 2014 lineup includes the comic book adaptation Constantine, which premieres Friday, October 24th @10pm.
Source: The Wrap