nbcThere was a time when NBC was trying to get its affiliates to hitch their wagon to the Peacock. And why not? The network was soaring in the ratings and regarded as the apex of quality television.

They invited local stations to rechristen themselves as NBC 5, NBC 11, or in this market, NBC 13.

I sat in a lot of meetings where we talked about this and I’ve gotta admit, the idea sounded pretty good. NBC 13 would be bold and simple branding that tied the station with a successful and respected product. Plus NBC 13 had a nice ring to it and would have been made for a clean and elegant logo.

What could possibly go wrong?

A lot of stations went along with this plan, but here in Albany my boss applied the brakes. What if the time came when the NBC Peacock was no longer proud, but a symbol of failure and ineptitude?

Impossible —but he was smarter than us (and he signed the paychecks), so end of conversation. Today nobody would argue that he wasn’t right.

There’s no shortage of analysis of what happened at NBC —heck, even Maureen Dowd got in on the act— but this single paragraph from Tim Arango sums it up perfectly:

Today the network is in shambles, brought down not just by the challenges facing broadcast television — fragmenting audiences, an advertising downturn — but also by a series of executive missteps that have made its prime-time lineup a perennial loser.

No, not the sort of thing you want to be associated with.

10 thoughts on “Branded

  1. The Hartford affiliate did go with the NBC 30 thing…I’m not cognizant of any earth-shaking slides in their viewership lately. The Missus alternates her prime-time viewing between NBC (30 Rock) and ABC (Grey’s Anat, Priv Practice), and I can’t tell you the last time I watched a network show.

    My x factor on which local TV outlet I watch is the weather, and eventually you just go there out of habit more than anything (though a high turnover of meteorologists might contribute to not watching a particular station).

  2. Gman: WVIT-Hartford is not an NBC affiliate, but owned by NBC (even though they tried to unload it in 2008). You might rightly assume that they get help from the network that little stations in East Podunk never see.

    Regardless, NBC 30 was third place in almost every newscast in November —and I don’t think we need a rating book to know that they got killed in prime time.

    This isn’t so much about earth-shaking changes as it is about long term problems.

    Me? I get my weather off the internet or from the Weather Channel.

  3. If The Daily Show ever does a local weather forecast cut-in, I’ll no longer need to use the remote after 11:00PM. Chevy Chase once did a Weekend Update weather forecast that included “Firestorms”. Maybe John Stewart can come up with a Climate Change Update.

  4. Thanks for the info on Hartford 30, Rob. Interesting thing from this uninformed viewer’s stdpt is that their news personnel lineup (heck, any local news personnel lineup or change) doesn’t wow me much regardless of ratings. Quality among the local news operations for the Big 3 in CT is really pick-’em.

  5. I remember hearing rumblings of that at the time. And boy, did your boss ever make the right call, although I don’t know if anyone could have foreseen Zucker screwing things up as horribly as he has. I mean, given his previous track record, it’s almost unthinkable that he’s bungled it as badly as he has.

    Beyond the concerns of the cyclical nature of network success, was there any discussion of local brand identity? I mean in the sense that you’d be going from local stalwarts WNYT to NBC 13, viewed as a subsidiary (even if it’s not the case) of NBC. It’d be like turning the local mom & pop convenience store into a Hess Mart. I mean sure, people will go there, but will they let them into their living room every night?

  6. Kevin: local identity was certainly another argument against NBC brand approach.

    My favorite example of local branding at an NBC affiliate comes from the unlikely market of Grand Rapids, MI. Over the years they have done an outstanding job of making their call letters resonate with the viewer.

    It’s a wonderfuly unforgettable combination of letters that works on many levels, is fun to say, and summons some unintended interpretations: WOOD.

  7. The paranoid-conspiracy-theorist in me wants to believe that Comcast (NBC’s new ownership) is intentionally having NBC make poor programming choices. Then perhaps the local affiliates will not only be OK with not being able to afford to re-up their affiliate agreement, but making them desire to part ways. This will then make it much easier for NBC to be provided as a Cable-Only exclusive. Kind of like NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV.

  8. > This isn’t so much about earth-shaking changes as it is about
    > long term problems.

    “Folks, the way we’ve always paid for all this is dead and left no estate.” Long-term problem? You betcha. Picture the last four Druids keepin’ the faith at Stonehenge. Long-term problem.

    There’s hopefully advertising support for two legacy-style news reporting OTA video broadcasts in our market, no more. We can get there fast or painfully. Pick one.


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