Despite blockbuster allegations of cover-ups and rape, NBC News may be facing displeasure from a key constituency, but not desertion.
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“I don’t think that advertisers are going to be happy," Eric Schiffer, the CEO of agency Patriarch Group and Digitalmarketing.com, "but I don’t see mass exodus out of NBC because of what was perhaps a poorly managed set of circumstances.”
Investigative journalist Ronan Farrow’s new book, Catch & Kill, includes allegations that Lauer – who was fired as the anchor of NBC News' "Today" program in November 2017 - raped a colleague while covering the Olympics in Russia. NBC is facing new questions about the firing -- what they knew and when they knew as well it, as a possible potential quid-pro-quo arrangement with film producer Harvey Weinstein, who is about to come to trial for his own sexual assault case.
"Today" brings in more than $500 million a year to the coffers of NBCUniversal and its parent Comcast. Though the headlines may be painful for the show to go through again, Schiffer, who also serves as chairman of Reputation Management Consultants, said “Matt Lauer’s no longer there. They addressed it at that point. Yes, it appears that there wasn’t the transparency that should have happened, but I don’t think that advertisers are going to bash NBC in the teeth and leave in droves over this new revelation.”
Brad Adgate, who was a senior vice president with ad agency Horizon Media for 17 years and is now an independent consultant agrees. “He’s already gone, so the thing is, once those allegations came to light, NBC got rid of Lauer within 24 hours,” said Adgate. “I don’t really see the advertisers doing anything, at least for now, based on what we know. NBC did the right thing, they compensated the woman who was harassed by Lauer in Sochi.”
“I don’t think that advertisers are going to be happy...but I don’t see mass exodus out of NBC because of what was perhaps a poorly managed set of circumstances.”
There are two other groups of people NBC News will have to answer to -- its staff and the audience.
“Does it impact NBC’s brand and will it upset employees at the network? Absolutely,” said Schiffer. “But will they be able to recover with a revised effort on transparency and some tougher rules about how they handle things in the future? Yes. I think it’s going to be fairly painless in the short run because they’ll announce tougher internal rules for vetting these situations and, perhaps, some further transparency on why this wasn’t revealed, and that will put an end to it.”
The viewers will ultimately decide with the ratings. "Today" leads ABC's "Good Morning America" in the morning news race of the key audience segment of adults 25-to-54. The show has won 195 out of 197 weeks. However, "Good Morning America" leads in total viewers. For the week of Sept. 30 "GMA" led with 3.7 million versus 3.6 million for "Today" ("CBS This Morning" which has dealt with its own sexual assault charges with former anchor Charlie Rose trailed with 2.8 million).
While NBC is receiving headlines and blame in how they handled Lauer with the new allegations, Schiffer thinks the show, the news division and the network will survive this chapter.
“The challenge really is one of transparency, and at the same time, where they weren’t transparent, they did exit him,” said Schiffer. “This is versus a lack of transparency and then a lack of removing him, and that’s going to help them manage this crisis much easier.”