Investing in Social and Mobile Helped NBC Get Its Groove Back

The network is telling stories beyond the show

NBC doubled down on social to drive interest in its shows.
NBC

When NBC TV chairman Bob Greenblatt joined the network in 2011, NBC’s Facebook page had fewer likes than CBS, a decidedly older-skewing network. “And we just thought, that’s got to change. And we set about to change it, quickly,” said Greenblatt during a session moderated by Nerdist founder and TV show host Chris Hardwick at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.

Greenblatt built “a huge digital division with dozens of people,” and began placing social producers on every NBC show “so that we can figure out what stories we’re telling beyond just the show.”

That has meant a successful non-linear experience for viewers and advertisers of NBC hits new and old, from The Voice to Saturday Night Live to This Is Us.

“This Is Us is a lovely family drama, you would not think it was be a real social show but it’s been a rabid social show,” Greenblatt said.

And it goes both ways: for the viewers and the stars.

Greenblatt talked about how This is Us was filming on location one night when the crew noticed through a window that a family was watching an early episode. “So [actor] Milo [Ventamiglia] took his phone and went to the family’s front door, filmed it and put it on his social and it just took off.”

Saturday Night Live, which has seen new momentum and ratings highs thanks to the Trump administration, has fully embraced digital web-only shorts and films for their own app and on platforms like Snapchat. “We started recording the set changes and went into the makeup room watching Alec [Baldwin]. We’re pulling back the curtain to enhance the experience.”

The results have been impressive: Ratings and digital have never been stronger. “I really do think the rising tide lifts all boats,” said Greenblatt, who’s not afraid to look at what other networks are doing for inspiration, and did just that when he created the This is Us Aftershow.

“We’re open to stealing a good idea,” he said to Hardwick, who hosts of AMC’s The Talking Dead, a companion show to The Walking Dead.

“I’m fine with that. And that’s because I already work for you,” joked Hardwick, who hosts NBC’s game show The Wall and is set to host The Awesome Show for NBC.

Greenblatt says the bonus material, after-shows, Snapchat-only content, and, yes, even iMessage stickers of your favorite SNL characters is “more work, but everyone who works on these shows loves to expand the experience.”

“We’re just trying to be clever and smart and vigorous with all of our shows,” he said.

Photo: Chris Ariens