Will NBC see a 'Leno effect' at this year's upfront?
NBC’s capacity for self-mockery is well-established. But after enduring a week of on-air friendly fire over its late-night mess, it looks downright self-immolating.
Whether or not the current train wreck will do lasting damage to an already tarnished brand, the more pressing question is whether NBC will be able to participate in what Madison Avenue expects to be a strong advertising rebound in this year’s upfront market.
“NBC is driving ratings points out of primetime right now,” said Peter Knobloch, CEO of media agency R.J. Palmer. “That’s not to say they can’t fix it; they have smart people there. I just don’t know if they can fix it in time for the negotiations.”
Knobloch also wonders if NBC can make a realistic pitch for a CPM increase in the 10 p.m. hour, regardless of what will fill the slots soon to be vacated by The Jay Leno Show. NBC gave buyers a big discount if they took Leno as part of their package, with spots ranging from $48,000 to $65,000. Doubling that price to the neighborhood of a typical scripted show won’t be an easy task.
Meanwhile, cable executives are seeing the debacle as another nail in the coffin of broadcast. “Everyone understood there was more potential for downside risk then upside surprise,” said one senior level cable executive. “This albatross will be exclusively hung on NBC executives.”
One TV ad executive suggested the smart move would be for NBC to package the network together with its high-performing cable cousin USA.
As for the effect on viewers, Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, observes, “This is really, both internally and externally, extremely awkward, and from an audience perspective, it’s another reason not to turn on that channel on the TV. If you create a situation where there is a high level of disengagement, how do you get the viewers back?”
But one branding expert, who did not wish to be named, said time would heel all wounds. “This is their Arch-Deluxe moment,” he said, a reference to McDonald’s failed burger brand. And people are still eating hamburgers, right?