Returning Home to Roost

Back in Radio City, NBC’s measured pitch tries to make ad buyers feel at home

STRATEGY: Emphasizing a repeat 18-49 demo win in 2014-15 and doubling down on drama.

After exploring Manhattan’s far west side at the Javits Center last year, NBC returned its upfront to Radio City Music Hall and delivered a comprehensive pitch designed to go down smooth.

While the net was loud and proud about repeating as champ in the 18-49 ratings race, beneath the smooth façade was an acknowledgement that all but one freshman show (Mysteries of Laura) last season failed to stick. “I’ll admit we had some ups and downs this year,” said entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt. It helped that two ups are among TV’s biggest draws: The Voice and Sunday Night Football.

Thursdays, long a comedy bastion, will be drama-heavy as NBC once again retools with a new mix. The Blacklist, which saw its ratings tumble since moving to Thursdays, will be sandwiched between a revival of mid-2000s hit Heroes and Wesley Snipes drama The Player.

New drama Blindspot—one of six dramas on TV from producer Greg Berlanti—gets the coveted post-Voice slot on Mondays. NBC will emphasize drama on Tuesdays as well, with rookie Heartbreaker getting the lead-out spot from The Voice’s Tuesday episodes. Neil Patrick Harris’ variety show Best Time Ever will air at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays until November, when it will be replaced by Chicago Fire.

“We’re attacking the new season with the same programming strategy that successfully turned NBC around—a slate of provocative and innovative series and events that cut through the clutter and will continue to build on our momentum,” Greenblatt said. “We have several powerful new dramas and attention-getting new comedies, including the return of Un-dateable, which will be broadcast live every week next season. Live programming is one more way to make a show undeniable.”

0503_RookieClassNBC.jpgWednesdays will be unchanged for NBC next season, with Mysteries of Laura, Law & Order: SVU and Chicago P.D. airing in their same order. Comedy Un-dateable, which will consist of all live episodes for its third season, moves to Fridays at 8 p.m., where it will lead into People Are Talking, the only new comedy slated for fall.

NBC’s fall also includes its live staging of The Wiz in December. Eva Longoria comedy Hot & Bothered, Coach and Chicago Med will be held til midseason, while a slew of series—The Night Shift, Game of Silence, Shades of Blue, Crowded, Superstore and variety show Little Big Shots—remain unscheduled.

NBC said a decision on current Sunday dramas A.D. The Bible Continues and American Odyssey will come after the two finish their seasons.

Harris, a longtime CBS upfront presence, took the Radio City stage to plug his new live variety show, Best Time Ever. Giving the audience a taste of the show, which is based on the U.K.’s Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, he showed an elaborate video prank played on Media-Vest’s Melissa Shapiro.Coconspirators in the gag were top sales execs Linda Yaccarino and Dan Lovinger, and NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert.

The upfront wrapped with a pair of performances from Dolly Parton, who is working with NBC on a TV movie based on her song about her family, Coat of Many Colors. Parton’s second song, a performance of “I Will Always Love You,” featured Greenblatt accompanying on the piano.