"At this point in our business, flat is the new up.”
So said NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt at the Television Critics Association's summer tour Saturday regarding his network's poor ratings.
“If I was putting on one show a year, it would be the best show you can do; we have 85 million people working on that one show,” he said according to Deadline.
Referring to the disparity in the output of the broadcast networks versus cable channels such as HBO and Showtime, Greenblatt said, "Those [critically praised cable] shows on our platforms with those numbers would be canceled...Broadcast now is the bastard child…I wish we get more respect for the work that we do.”
Without shedding a tear, he does have a point.
With all the hoopla over the highly-acclaimed presentations on the various cable networks - including all the awards they receive! - their audience typically pales by comparison.
For a broadcast series to be considered successful, it has to garner two, three, and four times the eyeballs of a cable competitor.
Beyond this, the broadcast networks have far more hours to fill every day with new content. Obviously, the cable channels focus most of their schedules on movies presenting far less original programming than their broadcast competitors.
I would also add somewhat regrettably that without the oversight of the FCC, cable is free to produce programs that couldn't air on broadcast television - at least not yet.
More and more this puts the broadcast networks at a disadvantage given the options the viewing public now has.
Greenblatt also commented about the demise of the gay-oriented sit-com The New Normal:
“I don’t believe it didn’t work because it had gay characters,” Greenblatt said. “We think the country is moving in the right direction,” he added, referencing the recent Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. “It may have been slightly ahead of its time, the focus was on gay marriage and a baby.”
Having never watched the show, I can't comment on why it did or didn't succeed. However, Slate reported in May in an article titled "TV Will Be A Lot Less Gay Next Year":
As the broadcast TV channels prepare to reveal their fall schedules this week, the renewed-or-canceled announcements that blasted out at the end of last week have already determined one characteristic of the 2013-14 TV season: It will be a lot more heterosexual than the current season, which officially ends next Wednesday.
Among the shows that won’t be back next year are The New Normal, Go On, Smash, The Office, 1600 Penn, Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the B___ in Apartment 23, 90210, Emily Owens, M.D., The L.A. Complex, Partners, and Southland, all of which featured gay or lesbian characters. [...]
With the possible exception of The Office, which finally expired a couple of seasons later than might have been ideal, these shows were all killed because they didn’t attract enough viewers. Network TV shows exist to deliver eyeballs to commercials, and if they fail to do so in large enough numbers, they’re doomed, no matter what.
So why didn't these shows deliver eyeballs? Is it possible that despite the public's increased acceptance of homosexuality, it is only interested in a finite amount of television involving that subject?
If so, maybe television producers should focus on the quality of their programming rather than advancing an agenda.
Or would that make too much business sense?