Warning to people at NBC who want to celebrate the network’s stand-out primetime ratings improvement in the first few weeks of the new TV season: Don’t invite NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke to the party. He might pour out the punch bowl, and send the band packing. “We’re still underperforming by my standards,” he told analysts this morning in Comcast’s call to discuss its Q3 earnings. “Broadcast profitability can be dramatically higher,” he added. “We feel like we’re on the right path but there’s a long, long way to go.” His boss, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, was slightly less dour. “It’s certainly early, but I believe and hope we’re seeing the beginning of a turnaround,” he said. Few would have begrudged the execs if they chose to be a little more exuberant. NBC’s Live+Same Day primetime ratings for 18- to 49-year-olds are +19% for the first four weeks of the new season, while ABC’s -11%, CBS is -18%, and Fox is -24%. Overall, the nets are “down at an alarming rate,” Macquarie Equities Research’s Tim Nollan says. Burke doesn’t seem to think that the networks themselves are to blame, for example by fielding weak shows. Tablets and smartphones have “given people so many options for viewing that they’re viewing more [television programming] but in places that are neither measured nor monetized,” he says. Meanwhile he’s happy about some other trends in television, including this year’s flood of political advertising. I sure hope that NBC’s Gloomy Gus was smiling just a little when he added that “unfortunately we don’t own a television station in Ohio” — the most important battleground state in the presidential race.
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