Plummeting Ratings Cause NBC to Give Refunds to Advertisers

Better stow all potables and sharp objects, for the ratings of America's top four broadcast networks are so bad that one is giving refunds to advertisers while the other three are offering what is known in the industry as "make-goods."

Even better, the problem began before the writers strike.

Honestly, you can't make this stuff up.

As deliciously reported by Reuters moments ago (emphasis added):

Fourth-ranked broadcaster NBC has quietly begun reimbursing advertisers an average of $500,000 each for failing to reach guaranteed ratings levels, the first time a network has taken such a step in years, media buyers said.

Networks usually offer make-goods -- free advertising slots -- in the event of such shortfalls. But NBC has none to give. In fact, no broadcast network has much ad inventory left between now and year's end -- except for, perhaps, a handful of units the week between Christmas and New Year's, and that doesn't do much for advertisers chasing holiday shoppers.

CBS, ABC and Fox also are doling out make-goods, primarily for the first quarter. They have blamed softness on a new ratings formula, but media agencies disagree. None of the networks would comment.

The networks' problems emerged even before the Writers Guild of America went on strike November 5. The networks had enough first-run shows to get them through November, and repeats and replacement programming will not begin in earnest until January -- when their problems will likely start to worsen.

Among the Big Four networks, NBC has the most serious ad shortfall, as its primetime ratings are down most dramatically.

This raises a couple of what should be obvious questions:

  1. Might this ratings slide have anything to do with NBC's obvious shift to the left by its news divisions?
  2. How will this network's recent kerfuffle regarding support the troops ads impact its ratings moving forward?

Regardless of the answers, it seems a metaphysical certitude FNC's Bill O'Reilly will have something to say on this subject.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.