Brian Williams’ ‘Rock Center’ Struggles for Ratings

by | February 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM | TV News

Brian Williams (Photo: Getty Images)

By Lucas Shaw
The Wrap

Brian Williams’ “Rock Center” hit a new ratings low on Wednesday night, so how long can NBC leave it on the air?

As long as it takes to gain traction, according to the network.

“It’s not a play to get a show on the air that will boost NBC ratings this season,” David Corvo, Senior Executive Producer of Primetime News at NBC, told TheWrap.

“Everybody wants to be the number one show on television and everybody wants good ratings, but we have to be disciplined. The idea is to create a franchise that will last 20 years.”

Still, the show’s numbers have to be troubling. Wednesday night’s episode drew a paltry 2.6 million viewers, scoring a 0.6/2 share in the crucial 18-49 demographic.

One could blame CNN’s debate or stiff competition from “American Idol” and “Modern Family” at the 9 p.m. (8c) time slot, but the show has had middling ratings ever since its October launch.

“The results have been underwhelming to say the least,” David Campanelli, national TV analyst for ad-buyer Horizon Media, told TheWrap.

Each of the past two weeks, the show attracted fewer than 3 million viewers, and on certain nights it has drawn lower ratings than everything from Univision’s “Don Francisco” to cable shows like Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor,” which airs at a different time.

The one exception was the NBC debate branded as a special episode of “Rock Center,” which drew a little more than 7 million viewers. But that was a special.

Two different people with knowledge of the situation said NBC has made a two-year commitment to Williams, the news division’s undisputed star.

“It’s a firm commitment of two years on the air to Brian Williams,” one said. “Brian Williams is terribly important to [NBC News president] Steve Capus.”

NBC denied such a pledge, saying that its dedication was about quality.

“We’ve had nothing but positive discussions,” Corvo said. “Everybody went into this understanding that it was going to be a process and nobody has wavered on that.”