NBC Universal's Graboff says TV windows collapsing

Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:29pm EDT
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By Sue Zeidler

SANTA MONICA, Calif (Reuters) - Traditional television viewing patterns are collapsing and the industry needs to quickly figure out how to profit in a world where people can watch TV shows anytime, anywhere, NBC Universal's TV chief said.

The challenge now was drawing viewers to network shows at designated times when people can either record those shows or turn to online outlets to watch at their convenience, said Marc Graboff, Chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios.

Networks need to figure out how to make their content more immediately available in a lucrative way, such as by charging viewers to stream episodes shortly after airing -- narrowing viewing "windows" -- or providing them to multiple outlets, he told an industry conference.

The biggest U.S. networks are currently struggling with declining advertising revenue, dwindling viewership and rising production coasts.

"The audience is so fragmented at the expense of television shows. Windows are starting to collapse," he said at the Variety Entertainment and Technology Summit, echoing comments from other TV industry leaders such as Dana Walden, chairman of 20th Century Fox Television.

Graboff was coy about a potential deal to sell NBC Universal, now majority owned by General Electric Co, to Comcast Corp. They are reportedly in talks and a deal is expected soon.

Asked how such a deal would affect NBC, Graboff said while such a marriage was still "speculative" at this point, he believed Comcast was also considering ways to better monetize content in ways outside the traditional models.

"At some strategic level, Comcast must be thinking, 'if we own a content company, we can help drive how the model changes usage.' That must be one of their motivations for doing this," he said, referring to a hypothetical case.   Continued...