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October 22, 2014

NBC's Zucker says ratings don't matter anymore

by Allison Waldman, posted May 11th 2008 1:02PM
Jeff ZuckerWhat do you do when you're losing a race, coming in last in a field of four, and have to justify your dismal performance? You change the scoring. What am I talking about? When asked about why his network is doing so poorly in the ratings, president and chief executive officer of NBC Universal, Jeff Zucker told Television Week, "It's not just about the ratings anymore."

What? (Imagine that as said by the Aflac duck). Do you think he really meant it, or is Jeff just hoping that the advertisers won't mind that his primetime lineup is getting its collective butt kicked by CBS, ABC and Fox most every night on the week?

Just to be fair, Zucker explains that the ratings don't matter because the network is fulfilling the expectations of the advertisers. "We're in an era where - we've made a commitment to our advertisers to a schedule. Advertisers have an expectation. It's not just about the ratings anymore. It's about our relationship with our advertisers and what their expectations are."

Specifically, Zucker was defending running reruns of Psych and Monk on Sunday nights, which NBC is going to do again on May 18, even though both programs are being clobbered by the competition. (On May 11, NBC is offering four episodes of The Office and a Law & Order: SVU -- reruns all.)

Here's more of Jeff's rationalization about why NBC persists in showing two hours of USA Network dramas: "Of course we'll change schedules if we have to, because it remains an inexact science. But we're not going to knee-jerk change schedules just because the ratings aren't what somebody else expected them to be. It's really not just about the ratings anymore. It doesn't mean the ratings aren't still important."

Call me cynical, but if NBC were number one in the ratings, I think Jeff Zucker would be singing a different tune. As it is now, the Peacock talks about the quality of their shows (true, they have some good shows), demographics (the net adores the 18-49 year olds), and engagement (which is not the same as attention, but you'd have to be a research geek to understand the fine distinction).

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Brent McKee

Will someone please tell me WHY Jeff Zucker is not only still working in TV but is the head of a network? If such things were based on performance he'd have been living in the New York subway long ago.

May 12 2008 at 4:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen

He's right that ratings aren't that important any more. But the network doesn't believe it. If NBC believed it, they wouldn't have axed (and I mean that literally; they butchered it) the excellent "Kidnapped."

Until TV networks are obsolete (i.e., in a couple more years), ratings are always going to be the sole motivation behind network programming decisions.

May 12 2008 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chgosaint

Zucker makes Jack Donaghy look brilliant. Move Zucker back to microwaves ovens.

May 12 2008 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Susan Burns

QWell, apparently it did matter for Jericho on CBS.

May 12 2008 at 8:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Luis Palacios

I would take him seriously if only his network were such in last place and the fact that Itunes ratings is the reason why The Office hasn't been taken off the air.

Remember kids that ratings will still exist...maybe not be tradtional but still have an impact even in today techno world.

May 12 2008 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Luis Palacios

I would take him seriously if only his network were such in last place and the fact that Itunes ratings is the reason why The Office hasn't been taken off the air.

Remember kids that ratings will still exist...maybe not be tradtional but still have an impact even in today techno world.

May 12 2008 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Will

Well, maybe ratings don't matter but that's certainly the excuse the networks used to cancel Journeyman (and Jericho on CBS). I wish they would have promised advertisers less on THOSE shows so they'd still be around. They need to make up their minds about what matters, and stop cancelling shows that have a following.

May 12 2008 at 12:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Yvette88

A big reason for the flaccid ratings with Monk in particular, in my opinion, is this: Show was not promoted much at all, network did not begin with the pilot episode--leaving any potential new viewers completely lost, and network didn't give either of these shows time enough to see where the ratings leveled out at.

Monk in particular has a great deal of backstory intrinsic to that character. You need to start with the first episode. NBC would promise a much wider potential audience base being a regular network, and I think this was an opportunity squandered. Psych isn't too far in, but I still would have started with their pilot episode as well.

Also, only flash in the pan shows start off like gangbusters in the ratings. The more solid, quality shows start in slowly and gain steady. If Monk had killed in the ratings the first couple of weeks, I would have been alarmed. This show has won multiple emmys and has proven success. NBC has shown you can get your hands on a sure thing and still mishandle it.

Toss out your schedule. Start with the pilot when you bring it back on May 16th. The pilot. New viewers will have a tough time endearing themselves to this show when so much will be going on that they don't have the backstory on. Give it more than one month to catch on. And finally, promote them both.

May 11 2008 at 10:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Monic

I hope he remembers that when it comes to Life.

May 11 2008 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cameron

I agree with him. Ratings don't matter anymore. The ratings are a relic from the caveman days of TV, before Tivo/DVRs, before iTunes, etc... People need to open their minds and realize that one criteria like ratings does not define the success/failure of a TV show or network. Friday Night Lights is one of the best shows on TV, but no one watches it. Gossip Girl gets dismal ratings, but its the number 1 downloaded show on iTunes. I really hope the Nielsen ratings become more and more insignificant because I get sick of hearing about "ratings this ratings that"

May 11 2008 at 7:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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