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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 year.


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 all.


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, 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 or so.


© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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