Less Product Placement on NBC, Vows VP of East Coast Television and Microwave Oven Programming

Struggling fourth-place network NBC has made a bold, perhaps even reckless decision regarding the upcoming fall TV schedule. The network is going to try to make money by programming shows that people might actually want to watch, rather than just filling its existing low-rated shows with more product placement. What a novel idea!

Once upon a time, back in the days of ‘Cheers’ and ‘Seinfeld’, NBC used to be a ratings powerhouse that other networks feared. Those days are long past. Today’s NBC has been stuck in the fourth-place position behind CBS, Fox, and ABC for several years and is still in active decline. Rather than invest in developing quality programming that might draw new viewers, the former penny-pinching corporate owners at General Electric forced the network to instead focus its energies on striking product placement deals with advertisers in a desperate bid to scrape together some revenue.

Over time, this product placement has become more and more overt. It’s no longer enough to photograph a character typing on an Apple laptop with its logo positioned prominently in the frame. Nowadays, the show’s dialogue will be written to have characters extol the virtues of these products, from Subway’s delicious yet healthy Chicken Teriyaki foot-long sandwiches to the helpful navigation system in a character’s new Ford Explorer. This might be done with a wink and nudge in comedies like ‘Chuck’ or ’30 Rock’, but the serious dramas aren’t immune from it either.

Well, new entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt has apparently decided to put an end to this practice by declaring a “content before commerce” strategy for the upcoming season. The new corporate owners at Comcast will be pumping $200 million dollars into the network’s programming, hoping to lure back some of those lost viewers with the promises of exciting new scripted dramas, and less reliance on cheap Reality shows and product placement.

That’s the plan, anyway. Of course, it still remains to be seen whether anyone at the network even knows what quality programming is anymore. The promos for some of the new hopeful-hits don’t look especially exciting to me.

Here’s one for the bland musical drama ‘Smash’:


The supernatural thriller ‘Grimm’ just looks downright dreadful, like this year’s version of ‘The Cape’.


And I supposed that the sexed-up ‘Mad Men’ clone ‘The Playboy Club’ must have received a special exemption from the “less product placement” rule. The whole show seems to be one big ad for Hugh Hefner’s gentlemen’s entertainment empire.


I suppose we’ll see how well this all shakes out when the shows premiere in the fall.

[Source: New York Post]


  1. I don’t know that Grimm could be interesting if done right. I think it’s a little early to judge anything by a 2 minute preview. I always at least watch the first episode of something before making a judgment and even then it can sometimes be a little early. The event really sucked up until about the 5th episode and then it started to resemble 24 more than anything which is a vacuum that is badly in need of filling right now.

  2. I always thought that ’30 Rock’ did a decent, clever job at writing in product placement into the story. Most of the time they were making fun of the product that had been placed.

    On another note, we won’t be seeing the one or two episodes of the ‘Playboy Club’ that air before it’s canceled, because our Utah NBC affiliate refuses to air it. They don’t have any problems with airing violence/sex-filled shows like ‘Law & Order: SVU’, but ‘Playboy Club’ is off limits.

  3. I think the worst example of this I’ve seen is on Bones. At least once every couple of episodes they break from conversation about a murder to discuss the merits of driving a Prius, “It parks itself!”

    • Josh Zyber

      Ugh, I’ve seen that. 24 used to be really terrible about it too. “Mr. President, the Russian Premiere is on the line in the Cisco TelePresence conference room. And with remarkably reliable coverage from the Sprint network, you’re guaranteed a clear and uninterrupted signal!”

  4. motorheadache

    Some of the worst and most blatant product advertising I’ve seen recently is in that stupid new Kevin James movie– TGI Friday’s, anyone?

  5. Col.Mayhem

    Chuck and Cougar Town are Subway whores like none other, frequently discussing the merits of various foot-long “tasty” subs, sometimes sitting to eat in front of a subway with the HUGE sign above the actors.

    Even the new adventure reality series, Expedition Impossible, had a massive Ford segment with series producer Mark Burnett.

    It just goes to show the primary purpose of the major network channels and the reason I get so excited for new cable and premium channel shows.

  6. I don’t really understand the hate of product placement. We’re advertised all day everyday. It’s silly of us to think that characters on TV that presumably live in the same time and place that we live wouldn’t be going to restaurants we know, and buying products with names like Toyota plastered on them. Sometimes it’s a little annoying when they blatantly say something in the script that has nothing to do with the show other than to mention the product’s name, but it’s the nature of the business. Got to make money where you can or we wouldn’t have the TV shows we watch.

    • Josh Zyber

      A little bit of product placement doesn’t bother me so long as it’s integrated well with whatever’s happening on screen. Like you say, we live in a society where pretty much everything we interact with is branded in some fashion.

      Where product placement is bothersome (for me) is when it’s shoved in your face by characters reciting ad copy in the dialogue for no reason at all. Or when it’s really excessive, like how every single product James Bond uses in Casino Royale is a Sony with its logo positioned prominently in the frame.

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