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If I Was In Charge of… NBC

Next February, good old fashioned broadcast television – the kind delivered by the combination of aluminum foil and rabbit ears that sits atop of my old school analog set – will cease to exist.  The Federal government is mandating that television networks broadcast solely in digital signals. Thus, if you are like me, you will need to get yourself a digital converter soon.  Still, I think this turn of events in conjunction with the tough economic times we face might just open up a new opportunity for Network television.  Follow along while I briefly explain my reasoning.

Recently I used the $40.00 voucher from the government to purchase a second digital converter for my home.  I bought it at Target, and it ended up costing me $10.00 after the voucher.  As I was buying it, a guy in line who identified himself only as a Television Executive, asked me if I really viewed television strictly over the air.  I proudly replied yes.  He was dumbfounded.  He could not believe that I was able to manage with only network television to guide me.

This got me thinking, why would I need cable at all?  With my digital receiver I now have over 30 stations, all for free.  I have more than 10 versions of PBS – covering kids programming, cooking and arts, travel, state government, and traditional programming.  Not only that, but local stations also offer multiple channels for me to enjoy.

Now that got me thinking even further…  With the expanded bandwidth afforded by digital broadcast television, why would the networks need cable or satellite for distribution?  The answer is they don’t.

So, if I was in charge of NBC, I would create 100 niche channels and make them available for broadcast through the local stations.  Music, sports, finance, politics, gardening, gossip, talk and more – all for free.  Why would I do this?

Well the whole point of commercial television is to sell ads.  If I can attract people to my content, I can sell more ads.  If people can give choices without having to make them pay, they should be interested – especially now as family budgets are stretched to the limit.  By being the first network to embrace this move, NBC could take a dominant role in the new niches that will emerge in the digital broadcast space. (note that you can substitute CBS, ABC, or FOX and it still works).

Look at your most recent cable or satellite bill and then tell me you would not be interested in having all the networks embrace this potential opportunity.  Imagine having 100, 200, 400 digital channels all for free.  Imagine having over $1000.00 back in your pocket at the end of the year – how is that for a stimulus package?

No, cable and satellite are not goint away.  No, I would not pull programming from them… yet.  What I would do is take advantage of tough times, federal mandates, vouchers, digital technology, analog televisions that still work, and mounting consumer frustration to take advantage of what might well be the biggest opportunity to come to television in years.

What would you do if you were in charge of NBC or another television network?