Accuracy in Media

Brian Williams’ “Rock Center” newsmagazine show hit a new ratings low recently, leaving observers to wonder how much longer NBC will stick with the struggling show.

According to The Wrap, NBC is apparently in it for the long haul despite the poor numbers. That is probably because their star evening news anchor is the host.

“It’s not a play to get a show on the air that will boost NBC ratings this season,” David Corvo, Senior Executive Producer of Primetime News at NBC, told TheWrap.

“Everybody wants to be the number one show on television and everybody wants good ratings, but we have to be disciplined. The idea is to create a franchise that will last 20 years.”

Corvo is right about one thing. It won’t be a show that helps boost NBC’s ratings this season. It’s kind of hard to see it lasting 20 years when it is barely surviving its first one.

What should be of concern to Corvo and others at NBC is the fact that last Wednesday’s show drew just 2.6 million viewers. And even though it doesn’t air directly against The O’Reilly Factor, it fell behind the Fox News show for the second time this year.

That’s significant because the potential broadcast television audience is much larger than that of cable-TV. Thus, the numbers indicate a very weak show.

Newsmagazine shows generally don’t garner numbers like some of the scripted programs or reality shows that dominate the broadcast networks’ schedules, but they can often provide a nice, profitable fill-in even with a smaller audience. Just as long as the audience isn’t too small.

And that’s the problem. “Rock Center” attracted just 2.6 million viewers compared to 2.88 million for O’Reilly, and 4.73 million and 5 million respectively for ABC’s 20/20 and Dateline NBC on Friday night of the same week. Even worse was “Rock Center’s” performance in the 18-49 demographic, with just 600,000 viewers, which is comparable to the numbers generated by smaller networks like the CW.

The best ratings the show has been able to achieve occurred during the GOP presidential debate, which the network labeled as a special episode and drew 7 million viewers. That gave the suits at NBC some hope that the show would actually gain momentum, but instead it has continued to slowly sink as the most recent ratings report reveals.

NBC thought they had a surefire winner in placing their star news anchor in his own show, but instead have found out that the Williams brand only goes so far. And in this case it’s mostly in reverse.

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