Viewership for scripted programs on major networks has been in a decline for years. Most experts blame this on the number of choices available today such as the Internet, streaming services like Netflix, and hundreds of cable channels. While those factor in for sure, networks like CBS, ABC, and FOX still have a loyal customer base that are willing to give their new programs a shot each year. The one struggling network for scripted programing is NBC – and they have nobody to blame but themselves.
The last thing you want to do is lose faith in your customers especially with the amount of choices out there. Every year NBC puts new scripted shows on TV and the majority of them are high quality. Over the past five years, NBC has continued a model of canceling these shows if the ratings don’t meet their initial expectations. By doing this, I believe that television viewers have lost faith in NBC. Too many times have they spent hours supporting a great show, only to have NBC pull the plug after one season. Some of these shows, such as Revolution, ended without a conclusion. Every year this pattern continues to dig the hole of sinking viewership deeper and deeper.
NBC used to be the king of comedy with shows such as Seinfeld and Friends, but now viewers looking for laughs head over to CBS or ABC. NBC developed a hilarious comedy this season, Marry Me, and it has been canceled because of low ratings. Instead of letting the word of mouth raise viewership over the course of a few seasons, or putting it on Netflix to gain an audience over the summer, NBC decided to ax it. For the upcoming season, NBC is only having two comedies and are starting them on the Friday death slot.
Let’s take a look at this past season of television to compare NBC’s cancelation rate to the rest of the four major networks. NBC debuted ten new scripted series. Eight have been canceled, one renewed, and one is undecided. The undecided show, American Odyssey, was the networks lowest rated show which makes a renewal unlikely. Why would viewers invest in a new NBC show when the cancelation rate is 80 or 90 percent? To compare, Fox canceled 63% of new shows (5 out of 8), CBC canceled 38% (3 of 8), and ABC canceled 36% (4 of 11). If you were going to roll the dice and watch a new show this fall, why would you choose one on NBC?
NBC is going to have to work hard to bring viewers back to their network for scripted programming. Instead of looking for a quick fix every year, NBC needs to understand that this process will take years. The first step is to gain the faith back of the television viewer. To do that, they need to stop canceling great programs because of subpar ratings and give the quality shows time to grow an audience. Viewers will come back to NBC and try new shows when they feel like their time won’t be wasted.
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