General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC Universal has a big problem -- the NBC network is doing lousy in the ratings. It currently resides in fourth place. According to a Reuters article, NBC Universal head honcho Jeff Zucker has tapped Ben Silverman, a producer involved with The Office and other hit programs, and Marc Graboff, an executive at NBC Universal, to become co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal Television Studio. This ends the brief three-year reign of programming chief Kevin Reilly.

CBS (NYSE:CBS), Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC, and News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS) Fox have been doing a number on NBC. Simply put, the network hasn't found a winning formula right now to keep up with the competition -- even pop-culture hits such as Heroes and The Apprentice apparently haven't been enough to offset the challenges the network faces. So, on one level, shareholders can look favorably upon an effort to shock the status quo.

However, the fact that a couple of new, creative gunslingers have sauntered into town won't guarantee anything, quite frankly. It's always difficult to turn a network around -- just ask Disney, which found its ABC network hurting badly several seasons ago. Eventually, things went the Alphabet Net's way, but one has to wonder if that had more to do with the existential nature of the content business -- i.e., sometimes a studio is on fire, sometimes it's as cold as ice.

Still, change is good, especially when GE shareholders -- I am one of the many -- are forced to suffer through the bad ratings spell at their conglomerate's broadcasting asset. I am adamantly opposed, at least at this time, to disposing of the network, since I believe content is a valuable growth driver going forward. As many have observed, NBC Universal doesn't seem to fit GE's tradition -- i.e., to be in companies which dominate their sector and are exhibiting growth (GE recently sold its underperforming plastics business). You'll never have that with a content business all the time; instead, you must remain patient and understand that, while content is king, your content will, at times, be at best a jack.

If I were one of the new managers, I'd perhaps be more concerned with controlling programming costs as opposed to fretting over ratings. Don't misunderstand that last statement -- ratings are the ultimate goal. But it is my hope, as a shareholder, that the most economical deal is struck with talent so that my company can reap most of the benefits. That's always been one of my pet peeves -- as a successful television series ages, programming costs escalate. We all know why that happens, of course, but I'd love to see increased experimentation with more limited series formats -- i.e., a series that is here for a set amount of episodes and then retired. Costs can be contained if a series is around for only an ephemeral time frame. Ratings go up and down, and cannot necessarily be controlled with any certainty -- economical management, however, is controllable, and should be fully engaged at all times so that when a programming slate hits, the maximum amount of monetary gain can be achieved.

We'll have to wait and see what strategies Messrs. Graboff and Silverman put into motion before we can effectively gauge their potential. For now, though, I'll conclude by saying that NBC Universal may someday become a superb asset for GE, and that the conglomerate should remain more patient with it than with its managers.  

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney and General Electric. As of this writing, he was ranked 13,952 out of 27,270 investors in the CAPS system. Don't know what CAPS is? Check it out. The Fool has a disclosure policy.