Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Breaking News--NBC Is Second In Nielsen Ratings!

What happened to all those great football stories Nightly News used to show on Sunday Nights (or occasionally on another night)? Like the ones they aired on 9/8, 9/9, 9/19, 9/26, 10/17, 10/24, 11/28, 12/27 and 12/28? (Altogether, those nine stories took up almost thirty minutes of valuable news time.) I really miss those football stories! Oh yeah, that's right--NBC isn't televising any more NFL games this season so there's no reason for Nightly News to air any more self-promotional football "news stories". Instead, the Sunday edition of Nightly News will now be airing stories that promote other NBC properties--like last Sunday's 2:25 story about the Golden Globe Awards (which were on immediately after Nightly News). And then there was Monday's follow-up story, which began with Brian Williams bragging that, "The Golden Globe Awards were seen by an estimated 17 million viewers here on NBC last night...." But hey--what's the point of being a network news anchor if you can't brag about your network's ratings? (Other estimates put the viewership at closer to 14 million.) Of course, Brian didn't mention that CBS handily won the overall ratings for Sunday night with an average audience of 20.38 million viewers to NBC's 12.77 million viewers (or that this year's Golden Globe ratings were down about 5% from last year's broadcast which was also on NBC). Nor did he mention that 60 Minutes (on CBS) beat the Golden Globes in the 8-9 PM hour. He also forgot to mention that CBS's coverage of the Jets-Patriots playoff game had 43.5 million viewers, a record for a divisional playoff game. Funny thing--on Sept. 10, Brian couldn't wait to tell us that the previous night's Saints-Vikings game (on NBC) "was the highest-rated regular season NFL game in 13 years." But mum's the word about CBS's record football ratings. (Similarly, last February, Brian couldn't stop bragging about NBC's Olympic ratings, but he never mentioned that NBC lost $223 million on the Vancouver Games.) Is that appropriate conduct for a professional network news anchor? Reporting Nielsen ratings only when the news is good for his network? An anchor is supposed to be a reporter, not a cheerleader. If Brian is going to report the Nielsen ratings, he should do so each night, not only on selective nights when NBC has something to brag about.

Of course, if the Jets-Patriots game had aired on NBC, we all know that Brian would have reported the ratings as if it was a breaking news story. In fact, if Brian had somehow managed to land a bedside interview with Gabrielle Giffords on Monday, I think the first question he would have asked her is, "So did you see the Jets-Pats game on NBC yesterday?"

And what's the point of being a network news anchor if you can't also use your broadcast to promote your sponsors? Once again, Brian took on the role of corporate spokesman when he spent thirty seconds telling us all about the exciting new Starbucks drink size (it's nearly as big as the city of Trenton, he told us). Needless to say, the Starbucks logo was on screen for almost the entire story. This isn't the first time that Nightly News anchors have promoted Starbucks on the air. Just a few weeks ago (Jan. 5), Brian spent thirty seconds reporting the breaking news story that Starbucks is unveiling a new logo. On June 14, Lester Holt was thrilled to announce that Starbucks was providing free Wi-Fi in their stores. And on the 5/5/09 broadcast, Ann Curry introduced a story about McDonald's new gourmet coffees (Curry called them "delicious brews") that included excerpts from Starbucks ads and interview clips with Starbucks corporate personnel. Does Starbucks pay NBC to have the anchors read these promotional stories, or is it just something the anchors do on their own to get free coffee?

I guess Brian still hasn't gotten that atlas yet. Last July 16, he introduced a story about Mexico's drug wars by saying, "Overseas tonight...." And on Monday, he said, "Overseas now to Haiti...." Since Haiti is closer to the U.S. than Puerto Rico, I wouldn't exactly describe it as "overseas".

Finally, I'd like to thank the Nightly News producers for the great story about Amy Chua's parenting skills. This is a story that deserved three minutes on an evening newscast? Really? How many actual news stories did they ignore so they could tell us about Chua's family? It seems obvious that the producers are trying to turn Nightly News into the fifth hour of Today.

UPDATE (Jan. 22)--On Friday, Nightly News aired a story about the upcoming Bears-Packers NFC Championship Game. Even though the game is on CBS, I guess NBC realizes that promoting football (even on another network) helps to raise awareness for the NFL and eventually will help their own games next season. After all, NBC is televising next year's Super Bowl. So it's never too early to start promoting.

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