Net logs first Nov. win since 2003 but braces for winter slowdown

In this season of time-shifted turbulence for the nets, NBC has prospered with must-see live TV.

“Sunday Night Football” and Monday reality hit “The Voice” have powered the Peacock to a strong start this fall — surprising even the most optimistic network insiders. The urgency to watch live gridiron action and the singing competition series has given the network desperately needed momentum at the start of the week and, most important, a lead-in on Monday that launched the Peacock’s most promising frosh drama, “Revolution.”

“We are just hell-bent on programming (shows) that have to be watched at a certain time,” NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said. “The best business model for us is live shows (and) shows where people have to talk about the storylines and the contestants.”

Lead-ins and night-to-night momentum have been in short supply at NBC for most of the past decade. So it’s no wonder Greenblatt took a moment on Tuesday to tout the net’s worst-to-first showing in adults 18-49 in the November sweep (compared to last year), even though sweeps aren’t as important to the TV biz as they once were (thanks to advances in Nielsen’s measurement systems).

“It feels great,” Greenblatt said during a conference call. “It feels like it is possible to move the needle. Momentum can do great things for you. There’s an intangible excitement in the building that is infectious for our producers and our advertisers.”

In the same breath, Greenblatt was careful to acknowledge that NBC will likely enter a rockier ratings period after football ends and “Voice” and “Revolution” take breathers until March. Fox will get more competitive with the return of “American Idol,” while CBS has the Super Bowl in early February.

“I do know that we’re going to drop accordingly,” Greenblatt said. “There’s some big competitive things coming in the first and second quarter. We expect a pretty significant leveling of the playing field.”

In the season-to-date measure, NBC is leading CBS for bragging rights as No. 1 net in adults 18-49, with NBC up 23% from the same period last season to 3.2 rating/9 share while CBS has ebbed 18% to 2.8/8, according to Nielsen. In adults 25-54, the Eye and Peacock are neck-and-neck at 3.7/9, again with NBC up 23% and CBS off 18%. CBS maintains its edge in total viewers (11.7m vs. NBC’s 8.7m).

NBC’s margins in the November sweep period (with three days still to count) are similar, which NBC noted marks the net’s best November perf since 2003.

“We feel like starting out this strong, and heading into what we know is going to be a tougher winter, just feels like a big accomplishment,” Greenblatt said. “Once we get into March we’ll be back in the game in a big way with the return of ‘The Voice’ and ‘Revolution.’ ”

For the season overall, Greenblatt was cautious about making predictions. “I feel pretty confident that we’re not going to end up in fourth place (in 18-49) again this year after all these years,” he said. “I’d be astonished if we ended up to be No. 1. … I’d be thrilled if we landed at No. 2 and pretty pleased if we were just in third place.”

Greenblatt made a point of thanking the journos on the call for coverage of NBC’s fall perf, and noted that he’s happy not to see so many qualifiers like “perennial laggard” attached to every story about NBC.

“I look forward to what you write nowadays,” he said.

Now that’s a turnaround.

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