Why The 30 Rock Reunion Won't Air On A Lot Of NBC Stations

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One of NBC's most acclaimed comedies of the past 20 years, 30 Rock pumped its fanbase up earlier this year by announcing the remote reunion special. Things got a little controversial in the meantime, with episodes featuring blackface makeup getting pulled from streaming sites (at Tina Fey's request), but the reunion is still set to happen. Only, there are now a bunch of NBC affiliate stations that are refusing to air it, and it has nothing to do with the aforementioned episodes.

While lots of viewers will be able to tune into the 30 Rock special without any issues, many independently owned TV station groups have announced to NBC that they will not be airing the reunion on their affiliates, meaning around half of the country could be missing out on Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan reflecting on life as Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy and Tracy Jordan. The reason ties into the station owners' reported belief that the special is more or less just a big advertisement for the now-released streaming service Peacock.

The owners of such mega-groups as Sinclair Broadcast Group, Nexstar, Gray Television and more have taken issue with 30 Rock's reunion being produced by NBCU's ad-sales division as stand-in programming meant to replace the network's upfront presentations, which were cancelled due to pandemic lockdowns. According to Vulture, the station-group owners are already worried about the Peacock streaming service drawing viewers away from linear TV networks. Similar to how Hulu works, Peacock is set to give paying subscribers next-day reruns of currently airing series, while those who opt for the free option will get new episodes a week later. The fact that there even is a free option is likely also troubling to anyone working solely in the traditional TV world.

Groups like Sinclair and Tegna have also spoken out against Peacock's plans to post episodes for late night talk shows like The Tonight Show and Late Night hours ahead of their linear TV airtimes. As of this writing, all the groups opposed to 30 Rock's reunion are aiming to air preempted programming in the special's place.

All that said, NBCU probably isn't getting too stressed out over the various station groups opting out of airing 30 Rock's reunion. For one, the special won't feature any outsider ads, considering it's meant as a promotion for all things NBCU and Peacock. As well, even though it won't be airing on many of the aforementioned affiliates, the reunion will still be available elsewhere for the many fans in the affected areas. For one, it'll be posted to NBC's website (though not to Hulu) on Friday morning, and it will also be available via On Demand and on Peacock itself. As well, the special will air on Friday on NBCU's various cable networks: USA, E!, Bravo, Syfy, Oxygen and CNBC.

The 30 Rock reunion will be airing as planned in around 40% of the U.S., thanks to NBC itself owning the stations in the ten biggest markets (such as New York City and Los Angeles). And rather than being a traditional get-together between the various stars, the telecast will feature Tina Fey reprising the role of Liz Lemon to team with Alec Baldwin's Jack and reunite the entire original TGS team in order to help Jack McBrayer's Kenneth to put on an advertiser presentation. Sounds familiar...

Be sure to tune in when 30 Rock: A One-Time Special airs on NBC (in some places) on Thursday, July 16, at 8:00 p.m. ET. And check out our Fall 2020 TV schedule to see everything that's coming in the next few months.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.