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NAB 17: NBC Reinvents Itself Online

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When NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt came to the company in 2011, he faced a number of battles, but none bigger than improving the network's ratings. NBC had languished in fourth place for almost a decade, but compelling digital video and social content has helped it climb to number one.

"We didn't have an identity at all in the social media and digital spaces, so we worked really hard to quickly change that," said Greenblatt in an NAB 2017 keynote Tuesday. "We thought anywhere we can market to a new set of eyeballs, we should."

Custom Content App

NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL) now has its highest rating in 23 years. The show was created way before the internet came into existence, but its format and content lend themselves perfectly to the digital realm. The show has racked up 328 million Facebook views and more than a billion YouTube views. One recent clip with Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer has 27 million views alone. SNL could be considered the poster child of how to earn residual value from content.

SNL's popularity drove NBC to take the show's 40-plus years of content and built a special purpose SNL app. "It was a lot of money and a lot of work building this app," said Greenblatt. The payoff? "I think it's contributed to the show being one of the most popular shows on television."

The Snapchat Broadcast

Another payoff has come via Snapchat. "We were one of the first networks that Snapchat wanted to work with, because they wanted to develop original programming," said Greenblatt. "We did two Snapchat shows for SNL. It's remarkable to me that a 42-year-old show has become a hot Snapchat (property)."

Every platform has its own language and subculture, so NBC couldn't simply use the same formula and content everywhere. The netwrok has had to look at each show to determine a social strategy. "We now have a huge digital division that are looking at each platform, each device, making sure our programs are available on all devices," said Greenblatt.

"Digital and broadcast are now working much more closely. We embed digital producers on every show so we can figure out what are the stories we are telling beyond the show we're producing."

Building Social Community

Social publishing allows NBC to do things they don't have time to do on the regular show plus build a deep community following. "This is Us is the number two show on television and one of our most-watched shows on many of the apps," said Greenblatt. "People want more and more of the show. I can't give them many more episodes, but I can give them other stuff. After viewing the show, people have all this energy and they looked for a place to come together (on social media) and share the experience." It was this demand for social community that NBC tapped into with another popular format, an aftershow that "really took off," said Greenblatt.

Bucking Convention

"Conventional wisdom used to say if you give people all of the sketches and pieces separately, why would they ever come back to broadcast to watch it?" said Greenblatt. NBC has proven that wisdom false, and its approach is driving both online and broadcast viewing in record numbers. "I don't think it's a coincidence our highest rated shows are the most engaging."

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