Will NBC be the first network to collapse?

Unthinkable. NBC has been broadcasting since 1926. Seriously. Almost 100 years. The peacock network is older than your grandparents (probably.) It was around before television even existed — it used to be a radio network.

This is the network that was so big that it had to be broken in half (the lesser half spun off to become ABC.) This is the network that invented “Must-see TV.” NBC defined late-night television for half a century.

You’re telling me that within the next few years NBC as we know it will disappear? Believe it or not, it could happen.

The channel that once proudly proclaimed its tech leadership by becoming the first to broadcast in all color is now showing only one color: red. It’s losing money left and right as its ratings sink and sink. None of its primetime programming is in the top 10. In fact, for the first time, a Spanish-language network crept into the top 4, displacing NBC to a sad number 5. It must have hurt even more that the network that bumped NBC to an all-time low was its corporate cousin Univision.

What’s next for NBC? That has to be the question that’s buzzing around 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Only one of its recent programs has proven to be a “hit” (Revolution) and even that comes nowhere near the ratings success of NBC’s early years. They do well with The Voice but it’s probably not enough to carry the whole network.

NBC could become the first network in 60 years to stop broadcasting. The last time a network collapsed, it was 1956 when the now-forgotten DuMont television network fell apart.

NBC’s contracts with its affiliates probably would not allow it to stop broadcasting on specific nights unless a collective agreement could be reached, but that would be a good stopgap measure as they try to find some way to regroup and rework what is left of their image. The only other alternative would be to stop broadcasting altogether, which would probably bring about the collapse of many of their affiliate stations.

Let’s face facts: they are running out of options. Good shows take years to develop and cultivate and NBC needs an infusion of quality NOW. Unfortunately, people associate quality with cable networks that have free rein to use sex and violence (and a healthy dose of profanity) which leaves broadcast shows out in the cold.

It wouldn’t be very fun to be the head of NBC right now… that’s for sure.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.