NBC has led the evening news ratings game for the past decade, but just a few weeks ago ABC pulled ahead -- its World News with Charles Gibson has been the most popular evening news broadcast twice in the past three weeks. So it just so happens that NBC is replacing the show's executive producer, reassigning John Reiss after less than two years at his post. He clearly faced a changing landscape, Gibson taking over from the Elizabeth Vargas-Bob Woodruff duo last spring and Katie Couric replacing Bob Schieffer at CBS. NBC still has the most viewers, just under 9.8 million each night, but ABC is making gains, with now an average of 9.5 million viewers each night. NBC says this change is anything but a knee-jerk reaction, and it's been in the works for months.
NBC is very confident in its audience. This week NBC announced it will guarantee audience engagement with its programs to advertiser that wants to buy ads in the upfront. This move was announced by Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development for NBC Universal, in a speech earlier this week at the Information Resources Inc. Summit 2007. This is modeled on NBC's deal with Toyota in last year's upfront ad market, using IAG research, which measures recall of program details in surveys of a 1.5 million person online consumer panel. NBC's offer of this kind of a guarantee could pressure other networks to do the same. But NBC isn't in the strong position it once was, last year bringing in $1.9 billion in the 2006 upfront, down from $2.9 billion in 2004, when Friends ended. We'll see how this year shapes up, and if a guarantee makes a difference.
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