Burke Says NBC Will Program 52 Weeks

Calling the TV season “an anachronism,” NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke said NBC would be competing straight through the summer this year.

In addition to America’s Got Talent, NBC plans to air six new scripted series and three new reality shows during the summer, said Burke during a press briefing at the company’s headquarters in New York Monday.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is,” he said. “We have more original programming going into the summer than any network ever has.”

Burke said that about three years after Comcast acquired NBCU, the performance of the broadcast network in particular has improved.

“Quite possible we’ll have a strong upfront,” he said, speaking of the industry overall. “Whatever the upfront is, we’re going into it in better shape than we have for a decade.”

Burke said NBC was focused mainly on adults 18 to 49 as the primary demographic it sells to advertisers. “That’s how we keep score,” he said. “We don’t want our people concentrating on a metric that isn’t part of our business.”

While NBC in the past has pointed out that older viewers are strong consumers, the network will be programmed to attract younger viewers because that’s what advertisers are buying. “Until it changes, our focus is going to be on 18-to-49-year-olds.”

When Comcast put Burke in charge of NBCU, NBC was in fourth place, and some people said it was so deep in a hole it might never get out, he said. But Burke said that with Sunday Night Football and the Olympics as building blocks, he believed that "if you give us three to five years, we will come out of fourth place. We didn’t think we’d be in fourth place forever.”

He said NBC finished in third place in adults 18-49 last season and was on track to finish in first place this year, thanks in part to the performance of football and the Olympics. He said that last year, NBC was 17% behind the leader and this year it will be in first by 12%, a 29% jump, which he said was the largest change since the beginning of people meters by a major network.

“We’ve made real progress. We still have a lot more progress to go," Burke said. “This development season is important to us. We need to do better on Thursday night, but this is a great achievement by [NBC Entertainment chairman] Bob Greenblatt.”

Beyond primetime, Burke said NBC was the No. 1 network among 18 to 49 year olds in the morning with the Today show, with the Nightly News, and in late night. “That’s the grand slam of network television,” he said. “All of these shows are number one in the demographic advertisers want.”

Burke said measurement needed to change so that all of the 18 to 49 year olds who watch NBCU content are counted and could be monetized.  The amount of potential ad revenue lost due to measurement issues of delayed and digital viewing was in the nine-figure range. “It is a serious issue,” he said.

Some of that viewership could be made up with a move from C3 ratings, which pick up commercial watching in shows watched on DVRs for three days after they air, to C7, which would pick up seven days worth of viewing.

Linda Yaccarino, president of ad sales for NBCU, said she would be pushing for C7 in upfront talks with many advertisers and expected there to be a mix of C3 and C7, with more time sensitive clients wanting shorter windows.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.