Merging business and creativity after a merger: profits versus quality


Two years ago, Comcast bought NBC Universal in a merger approved by the FCC. The effects of this merger in the media industry remain to be fully seen, but changes in management already have begun to influence NBCU’s practices.

Burke [CEO of NBCU] said that with Comcast in charge, NBCU’s focus has been moved from short-term results to long-term growth in operating cash flow, as well as taking advantage of the company’s scale by putting its resource behind initiatives like the Olympics, launching shows like The Voice or opening movies like The Lorax.

In increasing it’s “operating cash flow” (a management-oriented practice), it seems NBC has invested more in non-creative shows that they feel will increase revenues. Currently, NBC (including its syndication business and the other stations it owns) has less profit than other major networks.

“There’s no reason for that other than we need to make better shows. We need to rebuild NBC brick by brick, which is the process that we’re going through right now,” Burke said. The rest of the article talks of NBC making more money and increasing profits and beating out the competition.

What I find interesting in this story is its focus on increasing profit via making “better shows,” but not qualifying what “better” means. It seems to me that creativity in the shows on broadcast television is dwindling and, especially with the Comcast/NBCU merger, the industry has become much more business-oriented and bureaucratic, which does not bode well for artists with ideas for innovative, new television shows.

I wonder if Burke thinks of “better” as more innovative and creative television shows, or as less innovative shows that NBC knows will increase its revenue. It will be interesting to see what kinds of shows we see on NBC in the near future, and if there will be more collaboration between “suits” and “creatives” in trying to boost NBC’s profits in ways the “suits” could not have conceived.

~Senia Borden



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