NBC News Management Guilty of Brand Mismanagement and Neglect

Posted by: David Kiley on September 8, 2008

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The debacle inside NBC and MSNBC that has resulted in Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews dropping their election coverage anchor hats for those of commentators comes as a result of colossal brand mismanagement at the network.

MSNBC has climbed in ratings and ad revenue chiefly, I believe, because it has clarified its brand as a foil to the more conservative Fox News. Watching MSNBC’s prime-time programs, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, as well as Dan Abrams recently defunct show, leaves no room for interpreting the obvious strategy to counter-program The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes.

But here is the problem. In a year that gives us a historic election with a huge appetite for political yack-fest programming, and even before this year, MSNBC has become a huge outlet for NBC news reporters. And then there is the brand association—MSNBC and NBC. Even the network name is an extension of the NBC brand. There isn’t enough air-time on NBC for the news division to exercise its news and commentary muscles. So, MSNBC has become a kind of second home for NBC anchors and reporters like David Gregory, Williams, Brokaw, David Schuster and before his tragic death, Tim Russert.

There had been chants on the floor of the Republican National Convention last week of “NBC…NBC…NBC,” jeers that affirmed the complaints of the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee that the network was biased toward the Obama-Biden ticket. That seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for NBC heavyweights like Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams.

Fox has the advantage of brand clarity in this debate because it is unmistakably conservative, from obvious right-leaning anchors like Brit Hume to Republican party junk-yard dogs like Sean Hannity. NBC, on the other hand, agree or not, puts itself out there as independent. Brian Williams, Brokaw, Gregory and others could claim, whether they were jeered by Republicans or not, that they had no bias to either party or candidate. When they appeared as flankers to Olbermann, that license to claim independence evaporated.

But this year more than any other, the lines between NBC and MSNBC have become indistinguishable as Olbermann especially has become ever more partisan. It was a colossal mistake in terms of good brand management to have Olbermann anchor election or convention coverage.

All this rancor, which is red meat to Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity (who have been carping at NBC for months over this issue), could have been avoided has NBC management simply put Olbermann and Matthews in commentator chairs from the start. How on earth could the network green-light Olbermann as an anchor during the Republican convention when he delivers a nightly tirade against President Bush and the McCain campaign.

Here are some winners and losers in all this:

Losers:

NBC brand: Management, especially MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC News president Steve Capus, should suffer demotion or worse for truly awful decision-making and management of the network’s brand image and integrity.

Chris Matthews: The host of Hardball occasionally lets his old-school love of politics and political oratory muddle and color his commentary. His remark that Obama’s speech “sent a chill up his leg,” will forever be his scarlet letter of bias. In truth, Matthews may be liberal, but his remark had more to do with his sappy love of great speech-making than the speech-giver himself. Matthews views himself as NBC’s heir to Tim Russert on election night. But that isn’t going to happen.

Winners:
Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity: Upon hearing Olbermann was moved aside, I could hear the saliva dripping from their teeth all the way from New York to Michigan where I am writing from. Olbermann taunts these guys nightly, and has long held himself on a higher journalistic plane to the point of aping Edward R. Murrow in his special commentaries. Their producers are going to have to call in a medical team to keep their cheeks from breaking from all the out-of- control grinning.

The McCain Campaign: It is as if NBC management took dictation from McCain/Palin water-carrier Steve Schmidt. The campaign has been playing the victim card for months, claiming that the media had been unfair to McCain and now the new vp candidate. NBC’s awful management of the situation gives the McCain campaign additional license to beat up any media in the next two months.

Reader Comments

Brunetta Wolfman

September 8, 2008 10:21 PM

I think that Tom Brokow should be consigned to the graveyard. He is dour and vicious and not an inviting interviewer. He is MEAN and stuck in the past, "The Greatest Generation" and many of us are younger than that. Drop him or retire him.

Edra Ramsey

September 23, 2008 12:49 PM

NBC/MSNBC ARE BIAS, AS IS CNN, LOOK AT HOW THEY NEVER ASK ANY HARD QUESTIONS OF THE lIBERAL CANDIATES AND HOW THEY TREAT THE CONSERATIVES WHY DO YOU THINK FOX NEWS HAS GROWN SO? BEFORE I HAD ACCESS TO FOX I WOULD BE YELLIN AT THE TV ASK THEM THIS? HEY WHAT ABOUT THEM NEVER A PEEP NOW A VOICE THAT HEARS ME AND ACCORDING TO THE RATINGS ALOT OF OTHERS WHO HAD NO VOICE IN THE PASS, A SUGGESTION HAVE THE REPORTORS TELL THE PEOPLE WHO THEY WILL VOTE FOR THEN LET THE VIEWERS DECIDE IF THEY ARE BIAS!

Dr John McKay

September 26, 2008 8:58 AM

Frankly, NBC has worn me thin over the past year or so. I have never been one of those viewers who shouts "bias", and I've always used my own discernment of political reporting. Lately, however, my habit of watching a variety of networks has changed. I literally wince during so many of the NBC programs. I have no idea why any credible news organization would keep Mr Olbermann and Ms Maddow in front of viewers. Olbermann is like a radid dog who no doubt sends viewers to FOX or elsewhere. Maddow has that smug look of an above-it-all transgendered intellectual who is totally fringe in her life and views. Is she some sort of inclusion experiment? Then there was the SNL debacle, portraying Todd Palin, who seems to be a fine citizen, as a hayseed incest mongering dope. Last night was the "cancer ad" about McCain. Wow, how can management let this happen? It is all so distressing to see the fine network I watched for years go so overtly into decline without the self-recognition of blatant errors one after another. The heartland and ordinary viewers can't take much of NBC anymore. I'm am sorry to say that I will consciously NOT tune into NBC until the crude bias and horrid personalities are toned down or let go. By the way, today I sell my GE stock. I just can't buy into companies I don't trust.

Dr John McKay
Tallahassee

Duane Lake

October 11, 2008 2:37 PM

What got America into this mess in the first place.St.Mary and peter and paul.No its ok if they steal other peoples money to feed there clones running wild in the U.S.Oh and don't forget there boy friends that rip off insurance companys to get sex changes?Don't worry the tax payers will foot the bill?

Duane Lake

November 13, 2008 1:24 PM

Shy who me?Lets talk about a couple of my friends who work for the news networks.Meredith vieira,nattlie morales,Diana swayer,And a few others who's names I wont bring up.Sure was a real ball growing up around a few of these people.Your friends getting picked up at school for drugs and everyone knew that a few of them didn't do drugs?People being shot,almost run over by cars,Kidnapings,Biker gangs getting into fights at family field days?And they wonder why when I see them I go the other way.Stalker?Nope I run when I see Meredith Hi Deb Bye Deb have a nice day.

Duane Lake

November 13, 2008 1:29 PM

Topic anyone have any idea what firemans barn joel olsteen's hidding now?Ask him if there still scouting out preschool girls for strip clubs?David Byrne huh?Don't think a few of them like my comments.Tough Don't like childmolesters.

Duane lake

April 22, 2009 4:17 PM

No the people of NBC in NY never steal from anyone come on?I was almost killed over a two million doller trust fund account that I never even took a dime out of?Wonder if Meredith and friends drank it at ozzie's lounge?Her and the Mia pow biker gang?

robert bernard

June 23, 2009 1:33 PM

I think that NBC should send Chuck Todd the way of Campbell Brown. They both exhibit a "holier than thou" attitude and NBC would do well to replace Chuck Todd with a news reporter who cares about reporting the news and not their personal ratings

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