September 3, 2007
Raise Prices on a
Bad Product? Obviously, Matt Millen is Running NBC
When you’re in last
place, there’s usually a reason. Perennial cellar-dwellers like the
Detroit Lions don’t trail the pack year after year because they just
keep getting unlucky.
They’re bad. But
more than that, the stuff they try to do about it is invariably dumb,
and that keeps them bad. Lions general manager Matt Millen keeps
drafting wide receivers with the high draft picks the team “earns” by
stinking – but he doesn’t have anyone who can throw them the ball, and
even if the Lions did have a decent quarterback, there would be no one
to protect him from the pass rush.
But Millen keeps
doing the same dumb thing every year, which is why his team stinks every
I think Matt Millen
may be running NBC. The Peacock network, which once ruled the ratings
roost among the big three networks, now can’t even break into the big
three. It’s mired in fourth place behind CBS, ABC and Fox.
OK. Everyone can go
through a rough patch. But when you hit that rough patch, do you act
like the Dallas Cowboys, who went 1-15 in 1989 but took steps to improve
and won the Super Bowl three years later? Or do you act like the Lions –
taking steps to cement your loser status?
Well, if your
product is in the tank and no one seems to want it, do you think your
next move might be to raise prices? Sure, because that
will get more people to buy the product! There’s nothing to make a bad
product more attractive like higher prices.
It’s no longer the
1980s for NBC, which is bad and good. It’s bad, because in the 1980s,
NBC actually had good shows on the air (“Cheers”, “Family Ties”, “Hill
Street Blues”, etc.). But it’s good because these days there are ways of
getting your shows in front of people aside from just putting them on
the air at night and hoping they watch.
Specifically, there is iTunes. The folks at iTunes offer broadcast
programs for download at $1.99 a pop – so if you can’t watch during
prime time, or you’d rather watch Detroit Lions highlights – you can
still download the shows and see them at your leisure.
Hey! Sounds like an
opportunity for last-place NBC! Even if people don’t watch, so to speak,
they can still watch – and unlike with broadcast TV, you don’t have to
hope for advertising revenue to make money, which is kind of difficult
when you’re in last place.
You can get programs
via iTunes from everything from ABC and CBS to USA and “The CW” –
whatever that is.
So what does
last-place NBC do? Get greedy, of course. Some 40 percent of iTunes
downloads come from NBC Universal, so NBC figured iTunes couldn’t say no
when it demanded that per-download price increase from $1.99 to $4.99.
Oops. Looks like
iTunes said no. Parent company Apple Inc. has announced that iTunes will
not sell any NBC programming this year. Thus NBC, which is in
last place in ratings but at least was winning the download war, is
pushed into last place there too.
Reeling NBC asks,
“What just happened?”
Why do I always have
to explain capitalism to these people? Here’s how it works:
Your product stinks.
No one wants it. Think of it like the dollar store. You know those
little pieces of plastic you can buy for 98 cents, and you don’t even
know what they are? OK, would you pay $3 for one? Of course not. The
only reason you buy them at all is that they’re so cheap. Are you with
me? OK. Your shows are like that. Their one saving grace was that people
could download them and watch them at their leisure, because they
certainly weren’t going to rearrange their schedules to watch them when
you decide to put them on the air.
So what do you do?
You try to raise the price of your stinky product, which your download
distributor knows won’t fly, and now no one will see your shows at
Matt Millen is
obviously running NBC. And if that didn’t prove it, this will. NBC is
now trying to make up for its blunder by creating a new download site
called Hulu.com, from which people can presumably refuse to buy
downloads directly from NBC, cutting out the middleman.
Why does this prove
that Matt Millen is running NBC? Because the Detroit Lions wear Honolulu
blue uniforms. I rest my case. All NBC needs now is another wide
receiver, and it can lock up its spot in the cellar for another decade
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