Feathers flying at NBC

Amy Scott Oct 19, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: We start things off today at NBC Universal. Somebody at the entertainment conglomerate company woke up the other day and sniffed the winds of media industry change. Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.

AMY SCOTT: NBC plans to save $750 million by the end of next year and use the savings to expand its digital offerings. All the networks have been losing viewers to the Web and other electronic media. Advertising dollars have followed. But TV critic Aaron Barnhart says a lineup of fall flops may have hastened NBC’s move.

AARON BARNHART: You take a look at Friday Night Lights. Here’s a program that came in with a blue-chip name based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning book, based on a hit movie. And it has really underperformed. And the thinking is there’s just no longer that kind of an appetite at 8 o’clock for scripted dramas.

NBC no longer has an appetite to spend $2.5 million per episode on shows people don’t watch. It plans to replace expensive dramas in the 8 o’clock time slot with cheaper fare, like gameshow “Deal or No Deal.” The layoffs will include the company’s 11 news divisions.

Matthew Felling is with the nonprofit Center for Media and Public Affairs. He says in exchange you can expect to see more podcasts and Web-exclusive programming on MSNBC.com.

MATTHEW FELLING: It’s been the crown jewel with regards to how their branching out in New Media. And they’re really gonna beef that up, even if it means lopping off a couple heads in the process.

Felling blames Sunday Night Football for NBC’s troubles. He says if the network weren’t paying the NFL $600 million a year, the cuts might have been avoided.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

RYSSDAL: Call this the trickle-up theory of stock prices if you like. NBC parent company General Electric lost almost 0.8 percent on the news of the day.

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