May 17th, 2011

In big shift, advertisers lose grip on NBC shows

New York Post

The Peacock Network is strutting away from advertiser-friendly product placement in favor of higher-quality scripted shows in hopes of attracting top-shelf creative talent, sources tell The Post.

NBC’s new entertainment chairman, Bob Greenblatt, is pursuing a “content before commerce” strategy and distancing the network from the days when advertisers called the shots on programming content, according to interviews with several entertainment executives.

Jarrod Moses, CEO of branded entertainment firm United Entertainment, told The Post that Greenblatt is putting “content before commerce, which is the opposite of what NBC had been doing before and what drove them into the toilet.”

“Content will be the top priority before seeing how you monetize it,” Moses added.

While that may be viewed as a negative by some of the more aggressive players on Madison Avenue, it is hoped that the new strategy will improve the quality of their content and consequently boost ratings at the struggling network.

“They’re being a little less open to branded content, they won’t be as interested in making a fast buck,” added Moses.

Other executives in Hollywood told The Post they’ve been told the same thing. Advertiser involvement in the creative development process will be curtailed, they said.

In prior years, as NBC struggled with calls for cost-cutting from its owner General Electric, it swamped shows such as the disastrous 10 p.m. “Jay Leno Show” with segments that felt like promos for advertisers.

Greenblatt noted in his upfront presentation yesterday that NBC’s sitcom “Chuck,” which features promos for Subway sandwiches, will have just one more season.

The commerce-over-content trend hit its low point at NBC, perhaps, with the 2003 critically panned reality show “The Restaurant,” which featured close-ups of American Express credit cards.

Comcast-backed NBC has said it will put $200 million into programming this year.

Meanwhile, advertisers generally applauded Greenblatt’s presentation for its honesty and his shows—such as the ‘60s period piece “Playboy Club” and “Smash”—and his attempts to add more scripted shows, which are preferred by advertisers over reality shows.

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