Pasadena, Calif. – NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt defended the decision to have reality TV personality turned Republican frontrunner Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live last November despite previously saying the network was “out of business” with the controversial candidate.
“We’re not in business with him, but love it or not, he is [one of the most] important political figures of all time,” Greenblatt said Wednesday during NBC’s executive session at the TCA Winter Press Tour.
“We got out of those businesses [Celebrity Apprentice and the Miss Universe Pageants]. That was June and July when most of us thought he would be in the back of the political arena. He is a frontrunner now and the poll numbers are astounding. He is everywhere.”
When asked if the network was giving a mixed message by having Trump on its programming after condemning the candidate's “derogatory” statements in its statement cutting ties last June, Greenblatt said it would not be prudent to completely ban him.
“If we were in the business of never having anyone guest on the network with views that [we] disagree with, we’d be out of the business,” he said.
NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke echoed Greenblatt: “Those shows have a responsibility to bring relevant people on.”
“He was on the show for 11 minutes. The earth didn’t fall out of its axis,” Greenblatt said. “It was a highly rated show and that’s always a good thing.”
Greenblatt also addressed the issue of airtime equality for candidates, which arose out of Trump’s appearance on SNL, confirming that everything has “been taken care of.” He said the network has since given equal time to six candidates.
While Trump dominated a good portion of the session, the NBC execs also made time to tout the network’s “great” fall season, pointing to the ratings success of freshman series Blindspot and Chicago Med as well as staples Sunday Night Football and The Voice.
Paul Telegedy, president of alternative and late night programming, and Greenblatt said they were happy with the ratings for last Sunday’s Golden Globes broadcast, noting it was “down a little but a solid broadcast.” A decision about host Ricky Gervais coming back for 2017 has not been made, the execs said.
Greenblatt was positive about the performances of Jennifer Lopez drama Shades of Blue and comedies Superstore and Telenovela.
“We’re really beginning to get our edge back in the comedy arena,” he said, also referencing the upcoming Crowded and the second season of The Carmichael Show.
Greenblatt also teased critics when he revealed NBC’s next live event musical would likely be the movie Hairspray, with the caveat that negotiations are still ongoing and haven’t been finalized. When the deal is final, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will return to produce the show, which would be set for December 2016.