bytmergel12-04-200910:34 AM - edited 12-04-200910:40 AM
Marshall Lager is the founder and managing principal of Third Idea Consulting, LLC. We've hired Marshall to
provide his perspective on the CRM industry, Sage news, and the state of customer/company dialogue in general.
If you’ve been following the news, you’ll have seen the bombshell: Cable system giant Comcast has just acquired a controlling interest in NBC Universal from the network’s parent, General Electric. If the deal passes regulatory scrutiny, Comcast will add a major network and a ton of content to its current offerings. You can read all about it in the New York Times article.
The first thing I thought of when I heard the deal had gone through was that one of NBC’s premier products would have to scramble to adapt. I’m talking, of course, about 30 Rock, the hit comedy series that often makes its bones by poking fun at its own network parent. Alec Baldwin’s character Jack Donaghy, a GE executive in charge of programming operations at NBC’s Rockefeller Center headquarters, is one of the best things about the show, so I don’t see him going anywhere, but some emergency rewriting may be in order. Creator-star-lead writer Tina Fey will likely have to work in an entire new story arc and set of recurring gags to maintain verité. The feeling is probably similar to having the rug pulled out from under one’s feet, but if anybody can handle it she can.
A more serious concern is customer interaction and corporate image. We can leave GE out of this part of the discussion for the most part—the company has little visible effect on NBC Universal, which is probably a good thing for all involved. The NBC brand itself, however, is another story. It’s been around since the birth of television, and its status as one of the Big Three (along with CBS and ABC) is nothing to mess around with. Comcast, on the other hand, has the sort of reputation that goes along with your typical cable operator; it’s not associated with programming so much as it is with monopolized coverage areas, triple plays (TV, Internet, and phone, oh my!), and frustrated customers. At least, that was the case before Frank Eliason, Comcast’s Senior Director of National Customer Service, set out to change that image. You may know him best by his Twitter handle, @comcastcares. I asked him about the potential effects of the deal (via Twitter, natch), and he said, “I do not think the NBCU acquisition will have impact on me, but I can say I am excited about the business benefits!” It’s a public comment, but not “on the record” as such, so here’s hoping Frank can continue doing the good work he started.
Anyway, none of the brands (Comcast, NBC Universal, or GE) are under Frank Eliason’s control. Corporations slap their names on anything they get their hands on nowadays—name me a stadium or public building that’s gone up in the past decade that doesn’t have a corporate name—and Comcast will have the option of renaming and/or recasting NBC however it wants. This may not have any real effect on what is offered by the conjoined companies (though I expect it will), but it will have massive impact on customer perceptions of Comcast and NBC. Sponsors will rethink their advertising spend; creators will adjust their pitches; viewers and other customers will need to wrap their minds around a new entity.
This is a fragile moment for the new business venture, or it will be once the deal is cleared by the FCC and other regulatory bodies. When that happens, Frank Eliason, along with everybody else at Comcast and NBC, will need to work overtime to manage changing perceptions, so as not to sour the experience. With any luck, it’ll at least give Tina Fey some new gag material for 30 Rock.