NBC’s Chief Says Broadcast Is Still Profitable Because of Its Huge Delayed Viewing Audience

Network TV isn't on life support

NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said his network had its most profitable year in 17 years.
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NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt isn’t buying the argument that broadcast television is on life support, and thinks that his network has the audience—and the ad revenue—to prove it.

During his executive session with reporters at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A., Greenblatt touted the network’s strength in total audience measurement, particularly in delayed viewing, and said that NBCUniversal is monetizing those robust audiences on all platforms.

“I don’t think the broadcast narrative should be linear vs. digital anymore, but rather linear plus digital,” said Greenblatt, who is Adweek’s TV executive of the year.

He shared total audience measurement stats from NBC, demonstrating how the 18-49 demo rating for its shows grows in delayed viewing well beyond the 35-day window.

This Is Us, last year’s freshman hit, had a 2.8 rating in the demo on all platforms (i.e. in total audience data, beyond what Nielsen currently reports) in live-plus-same-day. That rating jumped to 5.6 in live-plus-7, and then more than doubles that in day 35 and beyond, currently standing at a 13 rating.

In comparison, Greenblatt said that the ER pilot scored a 12 rating in the demo in September 1994. Yes, that was a single night compared to almost 10 months, but it proves that “This is Us, on broadcast TV, is still capable of reaching a massive audience,” he said. Through July, This Is Us is averaging 26 million viewers per episode, and the pilot has been watched by 32 million people, Greenblatt said.

Many other NBC programs also enjoy big demo lifts from delayed viewing. Last season’s Law & Order: SVU premiere jumped from a 1.8 in live-same-day to a 5.4, The Good Place soared from a 2.3 to a 6.1 and The Voice increased from 3.3 to 5.5.

And NBCUniversal is making money from that delayed viewing. “The monetization is there in almost every platform, except DVR viewing post-8 days,” he said. NBC Entertainment had its most profitable year in 17 years, “and we just wrapped our most profitable upfront in eight years.”

As “the world has changed, our audience has changed, and our business model is changing,” said Greenblatt. “I’d love to get to the point where live-same-day rating was the dinosaur, instead of the broadcast network.”

NBC won last season in the 18-49 demo, and while victory seems assured this coming season with the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, Greenblatt said that he thinks NBC would win next season, even without the boost from those events.

To revive, or not to revive?

In other network news, Greenblatt said he hopes this fall’s Will & Grace revival will extend past the 12 episodes the network order. He was “totally on board” with the revival’s decision to ignore the events of the 2006 series finale—which featured the characters going their separate ways—to return to the status quo.

“I don’t think you want to see them with aging children,” said Greenblatt, noting that show’s first new episode will joke about the events of the series finale. “We just wanted the old show back.”

Just because the network brought back Will & Grace doesn’t mean that NBC is suddenly looking to revive all of its old shows. “You can’t imagine the redos we’re batting back,” said Jennifer Salke, NBC Entertainment president, who said that many producers are pitching her ways to revisit their former series. “It’s very specific to, why now? … We’re not going to make a reboot just to have title familiarity. That will fall flat on its face.”

Greenblatt also said he has “no concerns” about The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon losing its total viewers lead to Late Show with Stephen Colbert, noting that Fallon is still the “undisputed leader” in the 18-49 demo.

“The advertiser demand for him is as strong as its ever been,” said Greenblatt, adding that the audience and momentum will “even itself out” when the Trump news cycle calms down. “Jimmy is the greatest at what he does.”