“The most engaging social shows tend to be the higher-rated shows [for NBC],” NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told Chris Hardwick today at an NAB Show session in Las Vegas. The pair used the panel to discuss the art of creating on-demand and mobile content, leaving a digital footprint, and how networks need to embrace digital and social media.

Robert Greenblatt NAB Show
Courtesy of NBC

Greenblatt has been chairman of NBC Entertainment since January 2011 and under his leadership, the Peacock Network regained its No. 1 status in the key 18-49 demo after a decade in last place. NBC has also won the past three 52-week broadcast seasons and is on track to win the 2016-2017 season. 

With digital and streaming becoming so prominent in today’s world, Greenblatt is proud of what the network has accomplished in the last year with hit shows like Saturday Night Live, The Voice and freshman series This Is Us. “We didn’t have any identity in social media or the digital space,” Greenblatt said about when he first joined the team. “So we worked really hard to change that, and the good news is that the network turned around on the air pretty quickly over, I think, three years. And our digital footprint and our achievements in this space happened really fast, and it needed to happen really fast.”

Embracing digital, NBC’s strategy was that it couldn’t exist without going into this new space. The plan: anywhere they could get a viewer, or market to a new set of eyeballs, they should. Their first order of business was to get more Facebook likes since they were behind CBS, which tends to have an older audience. “I thought, ‘that’s got to change,’ and we sent to change it really quickly. Once you’re behind in this business it’s hard to get back up,” he said. “Things ended up moving really quickly.”

NBC Broadway Video

Talking about SNL, which is getting its highest ratings in 20 years, Greenblatt spoke about the show’s app that features all the sketches from the past 40 years, the Snapchat original sketches that they’ve created, emoji stickers and online behind-the-scenes videos. He also spoke about how once the show airs they put all the sketches online for viewers to watch, which begins a social and online conversation that gains it even more attention.

“We think one enhances the others,” Greenblatt said. “We put all that stuff out immediately after it airs and people watch it by the millions of viewers. I think it builds bridges back to people watching it in a linear way…That stuff goes viral…The ratings have never been stronger and the digital has never been bigger.”

NBC

NBC has a huge digital division that looks at every platform and device, making sure that their content is available for all. For example The Voice has a very interactive app that lets fans engage by voting instantly, suggesting songs for the contestants and saving their favorite singers while the show is airing.

“Immediacy is important and the digital side just speeds things up,” Greenblatt said, explaining that they are trying to create more digital content. 

As for This Is Us, the drama has an after show online with the cast and creators – they are trying to see if they can somehow air on television. Greenblatt and NBC were astonished at how quickly people connected to the show and started sharing their personal stories online. The trailer even broke records, being watched almost 70 million times online in just 11 days. What NBC understand is that every show lends itself to doing something different. “We look at each show and figure out if there is a great Snapchat show, and after show,” he explained. “Not every show lends itself to doing a lot, but when you get shows with a lot of engagement … I think the ideas are endless and then it’s a matter of what can we do well … You can put stuff all day out for This Is Us and it would be consumed like crazy, but you have to be smart and judicious and hopefully put out stuff that’s high quality.” 

As for common mistakes that other broadcasters do, Greenblatt says, “It’s not about looking at what they’ve done and not done it well, it’s that they’re not doing anything. In so many cases I see shows on other networks that we would go crazy with in terms of social media. I can’t say, and I probably wouldn’t say in this room of nice people, what my competitors were doing poorly. We spend a lot of time and have a lot of people working on how do we do it as well as we possibly can. We’re open to stealing a good idea like The Talking Dead,” he said with a laugh.

“I’m fine with that,” Hardwick chimed in. “And I say that because I’m already working with you.”