NBC's Jeff Zucker joked about, rationalized and downplayed the network's third-place performance to TV critics in Los Angeles before conceding that the network wasn't happy.
The NBC Universal Television Group president posted a bar chart showing NBC was number two in 18-49's behind CBS when sports were excluded from the ratings mix--with a 3.7 average rating to CBS's 4.0. When later prompted by a reporter, Zucker put up the graph showing NBC in third place out of the four networks when sports were included.
Although Zucker initially joked about the artificiality of that number-one status telling critics, "It's bragging rights, it's ego and it's kind of silly." He later amended that, saying: "Look, we don't like being number three and we're not going to like being number four," if that happens. "But we know we're in a tough place in a post-Friends era."
Father of the Pride, Hawaii, and LAX were disappointments for NBC this season, although Zucker pointed out that they represent only three of eight shows the network introduced in the fall.
Pride, he said, was too expensive to produce beyond the 13 episodes the network did in conjunction with Dreamworks. Of LAX and Hawaii, Zucker said, "In all candor, the shows weren't good enough."
Joey, the Matt LeBlanc Friends spin-off has also been a bit of a ratings disappointment for the network, which aimed to pull in 70% of the "Friends" viewers and has managed only 60%.
Zucker said the show faced inevitable Friends comparisons and was struggling to find its creative voice, but he thought it was "very likely" NBC would pick up the show for a second season.
Zucker told the critics that Lorne Michaels had extended his contract with the network through 2012 and that Donald Trump has signed on for a fifth and sixth installment of The Apprentice.