Skip to main content

NBC

NBC

founded: 1926

also known as: national broadcasting company inc.



Contact Information:

headquarters: 30 rockefeller plz.
new york, ny 10112 phone: (212)664-4444 fax: (212)664-2648 url: http://www.nbc.com

OVERVIEW

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is a television network broadcasting approximately 350 hours of programming a week through more than 200 affiliated stations throughout the United States. In addition to its broadcasting service, it is involved in cable television (CNBC and MSNBC) and has a major international presence through entities such as NBC Super Channel (Europe) and CNBC Asia. NBC has won more than 115 Peabody awards and hundreds of Emmy awards. In 1997 its revenues topped $5 billion.

Some of the most popular situation comedies on network television have helped to propel NBC once again to the top of the heap in terms of the ratings. However, the loss of Seinfeld, which left the air after completion of its ninth season in May 1998, and the loss of NFL (National Football League) broadcast rights to a rival make the future somewhat less certain.

In the latter half of the 1990s NBC has been focusing increased attention on international markets. Its CNBC cable broadcasting division added CNBC Europe, a 24-hour business information channel, to its international presence. In 1997 CNBC and Conexion Financiera, Grupo Televisa's Spanish-language business news network, announced agreement to license programming in Spain and Latin America.

In 1997 the company reached an agreement with Dow Jones, under which Dow Jones would license its editorial content to CNBC. The agreement also provides for a merger of CNBC and Dow Jones cable television operations in Europe and Asia.

COMPANY FINANCES

As a wholly owned subsidiary of General Electric, NBC is not required to report full details of its financial operations. However, according to GE's 1997 annual report, NBC's total revenue in 1997 was $5.15 billion, off slightly from $5.23 billion recorded in 1996. In 1995, NBC's revenue was $3.92 billion, compared with $3.36 billion the year before. NBC generates approximately 6 percent of General Electric's total revenue.




ANALYSTS' OPINIONS

NBC has often been praised as the leader in Television programming throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s. In the latter part of the twentieth century, going into the twenty-first, NBC's name increasingly came to be associated with the Olympics—not always a positive thing. At the conclusion of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, USA Today criticized the network for its manipulation of Olympic events by broadcasting taped competitions as though they were live. Similarly, a New York Times editorial complained about the network's "dangerous decisions" to blur reality in favor of entertainment during the Games.

Though NBC continued to dominate television coverage of the Olympic Games, the network was stunned in early 1998 when it was outbid for the rights to broadcast American Football Conference (AFC) games of the National Football League. Its attempt to salvage some NFL coverage by bidding for Monday night broadcast rights was also unsuccessful. Time, assessing the situation said: "NBC, sent to the bench as a result of CBS's acquisition of its AFC rights, had to resort to claiming rational behavior to explain coming up empty-handed. Executives at the unit of giant General Electric called the contract bids 'reckless', saying it wasn't worth more than $340 million a year to keep the AFC rights, the weakest in the package, or more than $500 million a year to obtain Monday Night, considered the strongest."




HISTORY

NBC began life in 1926 as a radio-broadcasting network jointly established by General Electric, RCA, and Westinghouse. The new radio network produced the first coast-to-coast radio broadcast in American history, the 1927 Rose Bowl game. RCA became sole owner in 1932 and in the 1930s and 1940s, NBC distinguished itself with memorable radio performances by Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra, Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, and many others.

In 1939 NBC demonstrated a new invention at the New York World's Fair: television. In that year it began television programming in New York City and in 1941 received the Federal Communication Commission's first commercial television station license. By 1947 Meet the Press (established in 1945) had moved from radio to television, and with the launch of such programs as Howdy Doody (1947) and Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle (1948), the network soon had a number of successes.

During the 1950s NBC debuted two long-time mainstays of its programming: Today (1952), an early-morning news show and The Tonight Show with Steve Allen (1954), a late-night talk program. Also in 1953 NBC introduced a significant technological innovation: color television. In the late 1950s NBC distinguished itself with the outstanding news anchor team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley and the popular western Bonanza. Television had covered political events and conventions, but it was not until the debates between presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, in 1960, that the full impact of the new technology on politics was felt. To many observers, Kennedy won the debates (and the election) not because he had a better grasp of current issues, but because he looked good on camera.

FAST FACTS: About NBC


Ownership: NBC is a wholly owned subsidiary of General Electric Company, a publicly owned corporation traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Officers: Robert C. Wright, Pres. & CEO; Richard Cotton, Exec. VP & Gen. Counsel; Mark Begor, Sr. VP & CFO; Neil Braun, Pres., Television Network

Employees: 6,500

Principal Subsidiary Companies: NBC operates a number of cable broadcasting divisions including CNBC, MSNBC (in a joint venture with Microsoft Corp.), Canal de Noticias NBC in South America, and the NBC Super Channel in Europe.

Chief Competitors: Operating in both television network and cable broadcasting, NBC faces competition from a large number of competitors, including: ABC; BET; CBS; Comcast; Cox Enterprises; Hearst; News Corp.; Sony; TCI; Time Warner; Uni-vision Communications; and Viacom.




The 1960s saw such events as an unprecedented 71 hours of coverage for a single event, the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963; a new host for The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson, in 1962; the first Television series with a black actor in the lead role, I Spy with Bill Cosby, 1965; and an irreverent breakthrough comedy show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In in 1968, which introduced the world to such future stars as Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin.

During the 1970s NBC introduced two strong programs: the family series Little House on the Prairie (1974) and the comedy program Saturday Night Live (1975). It also had several popular miniseries, such as Holocaust in 1978, and broadcast blockbuster movies, such as The Godfather, to a national audience in an era when this was still a major event because few people had videocassette players. Nonetheless, the network fell behind its competitors in the ratings and did not move out into the front again until the early 1980s, with such programs as the enormously influential Hill Street Blues (1981), Late Night With David Letterman (1982), and Miami Vice (1985). In the latter year, NBC had its most successful season in three decades. In 1986 General Electric purchased NBC from RCA.

Throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s NBC continued to hold a leading position, in spite of the departure of the highly popular David Letterman for CBS in 1993. In fact, NBC's own Jay Leno, who took over The Tonight Show from Johnny Carson in 1992, soon had the lead over Letterman's competing show. In the mid-1990s NBC had a host of highly successful shows such as Seinfeld and Friends, and it dubbed itself "Must See TV." The network also gained a virtual corner on the Olympic market, purchasing the rights to broadcast from Seoul in 1988, Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996, and every winter and summer venue (except Nagano 1998) from then until 2008.

In 1998 NBC suffered a couple of losses, the eventual impact of which remains uncertain. Seinfeld ended a highly successful nine-year run and NBC was outbid in the network auction for broadcast rights to NFL games. On the plus side, NBC was able to renew its phenomenally successful ER, though it will cost the network a whopping $13 million an episode.




STRATEGY

NBC has built its network upon a solid news and entertainment foundation. It's Meet the Press, for instance, is the longest-running show on television, having broadcast continuously since 1947. Similarly, programs such as Today and NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw continue the strong news tradition established at least as early as the days of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the area of entertainment the network has tended to be a strong competitor for most of its history, with the possible exception of a period in the 1970s when it lagged behind ABC and CBS. From the advent of Howdy Doody in 1947 to the era of Jerry Seinfeld 50 years later, the network has produced some of the most outstanding situation comedies, miniseries, and talk shows in television history.

CHRONOLOGY: Key Dates for National Broadcasting Company Inc.


1926:

NBC, owned by Westinghouse, GE, and RCA, begins as a radio broadcasting network

1927:

NBC produces the first coast-to-coast radio broadcast in American history—the Rose Bowl game

1928:

RCA becomes sole owner of NBC

1939:

NBC demonstrates television at the World's Fair in New York

1941:

NBC receives first commercial TV station license from the FCC

1947:

Howdy Doody airs; NBC offers the first televised world series

1953:

The first color television program is aired on NBC

1954:

The Tonight Show debuts

1960:

NBC airs presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy

1965:

I Spy, the first TV series with a black actor, Bill Cosby, in the lead role is aired

1975:

Saturday Night Live debuts

1983:

NBC earns 133 Emmy nominations, the most ever by one network so far

1986:

General Electric becomes NBC's parent company when it purchases RCA

1993:

NBC launches an all Spanish channel and the Super Channel

1996:

CNBC in Europe and NBC in Asia are launched




Not to be outdone by the competition from cable television networks such as CNN, NBC was one of the first broadcast networks to enter the cable business, launching CNBC, which offers a mixed business/talk format, and MSNBC, in which NBC is partnered with Microsoft Corp. The latter cable network offers round-the-clock news programming.



INFLUENCES

NBC enjoyed many high points prior to the 1970s. It had strong programs such as Bonanza (1959-73) and The Tonight Show (1954-). It also established a number of firsts, such as the first color broadcast in 1953 and the first show starring a black artist (Nat King Cole, 1956). But in the 1970s NBC entered a slump. ABC was leading with shows such as Happy Days, and CBS, with M*A*S*H and 60 Minutes, was not far behind. In spite of the debut of Saturday Night Live in 1975 and the broadcast of several major motion pictures in an era before widespread access to videocassette players (e.g., Gone With the Wind in 1976, which had record-breaking ratings), NBC trailed its competitors.

But in the 1980s with the advent of Hill Street Blues (1981), Late Night With David Letterman (1982), and The Cosby Show (1984), NBC began to come from behind. By the end of the decade and into the 1990s, it was the leader among the big three networks. USA Today reported that NBC had "easily" won in the ratings for week two of the 1996 fall season. Though it faced challenges in the mid-1990s, including those from newcomer Fox, NBC still seemed to maintain a strong position at the front of the pack.

In the latter part of the 1990s the network increasingly began to encounter another challenge: litigation, or legal action. Lawsuits, the bane of all major media outlets, plagued NBC. During the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta a bomb exploded in Centennial Park, a site of festivities during the Games. NBC and CNN, among others, rushed to implicate security guard Richard Jewell as the bomber. After the FBI dropped Jewell as a suspect, the network offered to settle out of court rather than face an expensive lawsuit. Similarly, Food Lion in 1996 filed a suit against Dateline NBC, charging that the news program made fraudulent claims in an expose about the grocery store chain. In September 1996 NBC itself became a potential plaintiff when it threatened to sue an independent television producer who announced plans to air footage of unflattering remarks about CBS anchorman Dan Rather made by NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, which had been inadvertently recorded during the Republican Convention that year.

NBC has consistently shown a willingness to experiment with new technologies and the Internet is no exception. Its MSNBC cable broadcast presence is mirrored in a site on the World Wide Web, which frequently offers information to supplement or complement on-theair programming. The network has established an online presence for all its broadcast and cable operations. In early May 1998, NBC experimented with crossover technologies when it debuted its SNL Online. The web site celebrates the long-running NBC hit Saturday Night Live and offers visitors in cyberspace the opportunity to view some of the show's classic skits in its screening room.




CURRENT TRENDS

Starting in 1988 NBC began to dominate Olympic broadcasting, and with the increasing commercialization of the Olympics and the high profile commanded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the prices for these broadcast rights became staggering. The network agreed to pay $1.27 billion for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Since that time it has also purchased the rights to the 2004 and 2008 Summer, as well as the 2006 Winter Games.

One major disappointment for NBC's television sports division came in early 1998 when it was outbid by CBS for the rights to broadcast American Football Conference games. An attempt to win the broadcast rights for Monday night football was also unsuccessful.

The commercial networks save their blockbuster entertainment for sweeps week, when ratings are taken, then released. The higher the ratings, the higher advertising rates are. Many times movies are shown, especially true-life movies. Networks are increasingly being criticized for rushing movies about true-life incidents to television before they are played out. In February 1997 NBC wanted to air Love's Deadly Triangle: The Texas Cadet Murder during sweeps week. The problem was the jury hadn't even been selected in the trial. Lawyers for the two accused murderers objected to the movie being shown, stating it would prejudice potential jurors against their clients. NBC defended its right to air the movie. Editorials scolded the network, saying while NBC certainly had a right to show the movie, it wasn't necessarily in good taste or judgement. The movie ran as planned, but the local NBC affiliate in the area where the trial was to be held declined to air the movie.




PRODUCTS

Among NBC's most popular shows in the late 1990s were the situation comedies Frasier, Mad About You, and Friends; the dramas ER and Homicide; the news programs Today, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, and Dateline NBC; talk shows such as The Tonight Show and Late Night With Conan O'Brien; and a variety of sports programs, including the Olympics. During the 1995-96 season, NBC had the rights to broadcast regular games in all three of the major sports, with programming from the NFL (National Football League), NBA (National Basketball Association), and Major League Baseball.

As the regular broadcast season came to a close in the spring of 1998, NBC suffered a loss when its very successful sitcom Seinfeld went off the air. Jerry Seinfeld, star of the immensely popular comedy, had earlier announced his intention to stop production of the show after nine seasons. That, coupled with the loss starting in the 1997-1998 season of broadcast rights to NFL football, had some observers wondering just how great a toll the losses would take. NBC announced in May 1998 that it would put its very popular Frasier into the time slot vacated by Seinfeld. NBC's very successful drama series ER was renewed earlier when NBC agreed to shell out $13 million an episode.




CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP

In 1990 NBC launched a public service campaign called "The More You Know," intended to educate young people and their parents on such concerns as substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and peer pressure.



GLOBAL PRESENCE

NBC is actively involved in the European, Asian, and Latin American marketplaces. It distributes its programming through NBC International to virtually every country in the world. In addition it owns NBC Super Channel, available in 44 countries of Europe; CNBC Asia, which reaches viewers in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and other business centers of east Asia; and Canal de Noticias NBC, a Spanish-language 24-hour news network (the first of its kind) available in 21 countries of Latin America. In the mid-1990s NBC announced plans for NBC in Asia and CNBC Europe.

SEINLANGUAGE


On May 14, 1998, the "show about nothing" officially became part of sitcom history—what to do now on Thursday nights at 9 P.M.? Well, at least we'll always have reruns. Seinfeld, NBC's hit sitcom of the 1990s, has been deemed by many one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. During its nine-year run it contributed many catch-phrases and buzzwords that became part of American pop culture. The following is a list of some of the show's verbal wit that found its way into the everyday language of the nation:

  • Anti-dentite: Someone who is prejudiced against dentists—Kramer accuses Jerry of being one
  • Bosco: George's ATM code and favorite chocolate syrup. He refuses to reveal the code to anyone—except to J. Peterman's dying mother, who repeatedly shouts it out as her dying words
  • Double-dipping: George's social blunder—he dips a chip, takes a bite, then dips again. "That's like sticking your whole mouth in the bowl," he's told
  • Festivus: The holiday for the rest of us who are sick of the commercialism of Christmas. Created by George's father, Frank Costanza, it involves an aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree, the airing of grievances, and, last but not least, the "feats of strength" between father and son
  • Hand: You've got to have the upper one in a relationship
  • Manssiere, or the Bro: A bra for the man in need of support. Invented by Kramer, and modeled by Frank Costanza
  • Must-lie situation: Those times when a white lie is required—such as when Jerry and Elaine have a gander at an ugly baby and are asked by the parents, "Isn't he gorgeous?"
  • Re-gifter: Somebody who re-gives a gift that he himself was given
  • "Serenity now!" Frank Costanza's exclamation, when in a stressful situation
  • Yada, yada, yada: Used to cut out all the trivial details of a story. Can be abused, as George finds out—his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend came over to see her last night, yada, yada, yada, "And boy am I tired today."

EMPLOYMENT

The majority of NBC's 6,500 employees work at the company's headquarters in New York City or at NBC production facilities in Burbank, California. Many others work out of one of the stations owned by the network, most notably WNBC in New York. Other NBC-owned stations are in Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Miami; San Diego; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Columbus, Ohio. Those interested in working for NBC in New York City are encouraged to write to Employee Relations, 30 Rockefeller Plz., Rm. 1678, New York, NY 10112. Applicants interested in working at NBC's offices in Burbank, California, may write to Employee Relations, 3000 W. Alameda C-281, Burbank, CA 91523, or call the pre-recorded job line at (818)840-4397. The company also has a limited number of unpaid internships available in its New York and Burbank offices.



SOURCES OF INFORMATION

Bibliography

"buying the news." editor & publisher, 10 october 1996.

carter, bill. "tv film about teen-ager's murder draws protest on network's timing." new york times, 3 february 1997.

general electric company annual report. fairfield, ct: general electric company, 1997.

graham, jefferson. "nbc holds on to no. 1 spot in new season's ratings race." usa today, 2 october 1996.

johnson, kevin. "media shy from lawsuits." usa today, 29 january 1997.

johnson, peter. "tom brokaw's off-air comments caught on tape." usa today, 29 september 1996.

"less action." usa today, 5 august 1996.

"national broadcasting company inc." hoover's online, 1 june 1998. available at http://www.hoovers.com.

the nbc home page, may 1998. available at http://www.nbc.com.

"nbc's olympian task." advertising age, 14 august 1995.

"nbc's time warp." new york times, 2 august 1996.

"one deadly triangle too many." new york times, 10 february 1997.

perman, stacy. "thrown for a loss by the nfl." time, 26 january 1998.

preuss, christopher. "tv magazine shows are entertainment, not news." usa today, 24 january 1997.

tedesco, richard. "ready for online players?" broadcasting & cable online, 4 may 1998. available at http://www.broadcast-ingcable.com.

"this is nbc." national broadcasting company. new york: nbc, 1997.



For additional industry research:

investigate companies by their standard industrial classification codes, also known as sics. nbc's primary sics are:

4832 radio broadcasting stations

4833 television broadcasting stations

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"NBC." Company Profiles for Students. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"NBC." Company Profiles for Students. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/economics-magazines/nbc

"NBC." Company Profiles for Students. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/economics/economics-magazines/nbc

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.