NBC is Reportedly Thinking About Cutting Back on Primetime; Does That Mean They Are Choosing Streaming Over Broadcast?
It’s long been clear that the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal is eying streaming, and specifically Peacock, as the future of its broadcasting empire. Now, there’s word that the company may be cutting back on the TV network that bears its name.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that NBC is considering cutting back on the hours that it programs during primetime, including the possibility that it could stop programming the 10 p.m. ET hour and instead cede that time back to local affiliates and station partners.
If this happens, it would seem clear that the company would direct more of its original TV development energies away from NBC and towards Peacock. The story comes as next-day streaming of NBC shows prepares to shift from Hulu to Peacock next month and NBCU is expanding its live sports rights deals for both broadcast and streaming.
The WSJ story was clear that the talks are “preliminary,” and the cutback may not come to fruition as affiliates have not yet been approached with the idea. The report indicates that the fall of 2023 is the earliest that such a shift could occur, as programming schedules are already in place for the 2022-23 season.
This could conceivably cause the creative community to end up unhappy with NBCUniversal, which is certainly what happened the last time NBC ceded the 10 p.m. ET hour. That was during the short-lived “Jay Leno Show” experiment in 2009 and 2010, which left seven fewer hours each week for original programming, including the dramas that had traditionally run at that hour. Ironically, per the Journal, the switch could lead to “The Tonight Show” getting an earlier start time than its current 11:30 p.m. ET window, either pushing it to 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. ET.
Creatives are already known to be angry with Warner Bros. Discovery following the massive recent cutbacks at HBO Max and elsewhere in the company. WBD CEO David Zaslav not only slashed programming and staffing in an effort to save money, the terse manner in which the moves were handled has also upset many in the community.
It’s also possible that NBC could stick more expensive, star and franchise-driven shows on the main NBC network, with shows with more niche appeal going to Peacock as originals. Many content creators in the streaming community have been focused on developing niche identities to maximize their retention, even if subscriber totals remain smaller than general entertainment competitors.
The report says that Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, is spearheading the discussions about cutting back primetime, although if the network did so, it “would still be aggressive in making content for Peacock and the NBCUniversal cable networks,” the Journal said.
“We are always looking at strategies to ensure that our broadcast business remains as strong as possible. As a company, our advantage lies in our ability to provide audiences with the content they love across broadcast, cable, and streaming,” an NBC spokesperson told the Journal, in a statement that did not deny any aspect of the story.
Whether NBCU eventually decides to give up on the 10 p.m. ET hour or not, it is clear that the company’s future strategy revolves around Peacock. Not only have they positioned it as a standalone streaming service, but also as a key component in plans to turn Xfinity’s operating system into a platform for all sorts of streaming entertainment.
With the extra money saved from seven hours of broadcast programming, that money would likely be reinvested in expanding the content stream over at Peacock.
Peacock is a subscription video streaming service from NBCUniversal that includes original shows, blockbuster movies, and classic television series. Peacock is home to “Yellowstone,” and “The Office,” as well as original hits like “Bel-Air.” You can also watch live sports including Sunday Night Football, Premier League, and exclusive MLB games. Peacock is also the exclusive home to many WWE events like WrestleMania. Starting Nov. 30, Premium Plus subscribers will be able to stream their local NBC feed in all 210 markets.
The company has acquired the rights to many classic shows like “Parks and Recreation,” and the entire Dick Wolf library including “Law & Order” and “Chicago Fire.”
The service also features blockbusters and critically-acclaimed films from Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination and content acquired from Hollywood’s biggest studios.