In the first NBC network executive Q&A since last week's shake up giving Jeff Gaspin oversight of all NBC Universal's TV assets-including the broadcast network-the NBC network's top execs say the focus of the new era is improving NBC's brand.
During the TCA summer press tour Aug.5, critics pressed NBC Primetime Entertainment President Angela Bromstad and NBC Executive VP of Alternative Programming Paul Telegdy on what actually defines NBC's brand.
"Heroes, The Office and SVU are all on-brand," Bromstad said, appearing with Telegdy in the network's morning exec Q&A session. "I think we have fallen short in the past couple of years and it's our goal to bring back high quality sophisticated dramas, and a brand of alternative that falls into that."
When asked after the session to elaborate more on what the NBC brand is, Bromstad said "it's smart, sophisticated, quality programming. I feel personally NBC wants to have the best comedy on TV and the best drama on TV" and pointed to the network's numerous Emmy nominations as evidence that the network is on that path.
She acknowledged, however, that the most acclaimed shows are sometimes not the highest rated and says "we need to balance both." She also said NBC is aggressively developing multi-camera comedy, the form CBS has had so much success with. "We can put a multi-camera comedy on NBC."
Jay Leno's new 10 p.m. show may help alleviate some of the pressure of creating successful scripted comedies and dramas, Bromstad said, since she continues to spend as much time and money developing shots at scripted success as ever despite fewer hours to fill.
"Every single hour of scripted programming has to count," Bromstad said. "Does Leno help? Yes. It is still not easy to get a hit comedy or drama."
Bromstad addressed ratings expectations for Leno vaguely, deferring to the Leno panel session scheduled for later in the day and saying that there are many things that could mean success for this show.
"[What's going to be a success] for Leno is a 52 week cumulative rating for the show," Bromstad said. "It is a marathon and won't be determined the first five days of show."
"It's going to be on 52 weeks a year, 46 original," Telegdy added. "There will be benchmarks that apply to it."
But, Bromstad said she will be realistic about evaluating Leno's success.
"We're always looking at contingency plans for everything based on our info and our research and the numbers that we see," she said. "This is going to be a long-term commitment for us."
Bromstad says she expects the new setup with Gaspin's oversight to be similar to how she worked with him a few years ago. "Before I left to take the international job, Jeff Gaspin was always part of the big decisions," she says. "In the last couple years he was maybe a little more involved in cable, a little less in broadcast, but for me the relationship has kind of always been that Gaspin was part of the overall big picture. He's a big picture guy."
She also addressed during the panel how the network's business will evolve under Gaspin.
"It's naïve to think we can keep doing business the way we're doing business," Bromstad said. "I think Jeff [Gaspin] coming in will continue the conversation."
She said cutting programming costs is the top priority in changing the way NBC's broadcast network model works. "We have to find a way to bring costs down. We should be taking advantage of the success of the cable properties. Jeff is going to be looking at all those things," she said.
On the topic of Ben Silverman's departure last week, Bromstad said she doesn't think things will change much since her arrival in December and that Silverman's exit wasn't a huge surprise to her.
"It has always been Ben's plan to transition back to his entrepreneurial roots," Bromstad said. "I don't think he was meant to be at NBC for a long-term thing."
With the recent news of Paula Abdul's departure from American Idol, Telegdy addressed bringing her to NBC. "Paula is an exceptional piece of talent," Telegdy said. "I read the breaking news last night and wouldn't rule anything out."
Melissa Grego contributed to this report.