TCA: Greenblatt Says Trump Benched But Not Banned From NBC

Updated: Network chief addresses relationship with ousted ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ host, stumps for live event titles
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NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt came prepared for the sea of questions about ousted Celebrity Apprentice host-turned-politician Donald Trump and quickly dismissed any chance of a return to primetime entertainment programming for the Republican presidential candidate during the election cycle.

“Absolutely not,” Greenblatt said, referring specifically to Trump returning to Celebrity Apprentice, though he noted his relationship with Trump was always “congenial.”

NBC is still on the hunt for a Trump replacement looking for someone “who will make noise” and have a “big personality,” consequently pushing the next season of the reality competition to the 2016-17 season.

“As soon as we settle on someone, we’ll get the word out, and something tells me that will be big news,” he said. 

And while NBC and Trump are “sort of separated” at the moment, Greenblatt can’t definitively say Trump will never grace the airwaves. 

“I don’t think somebody who is running for president and might possibly be the next leader of the free world could be banned from any activities at NBC,” he said. 

When asked why he thinks Trump has attracted so much attention, Greenblatt said, “The world likes a star, and he’s a star.”

“I guess people in the political world are looking for somebody who speaks their mind regardless of anything else,” commenting on the real estate mogul’s propensity to speak without any filter.

Once the elephant in the room was addressed, the NBC topper also touched on the state of the network as well as making pickup and renewal announcements

Greenblatt is keenly aware of the possibility of “wearing out our welcome” when it comes to the network's flagship reality music competition The Voice, saying NBC won’t be on two cycles of the show forever. 

“I am pleased with how well it is holding up,” pointing to the vacuum created by the departure of American Idol. “Hopefully that will bode well for its continuous good health."

When asked if he regretted passing on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, starring Office alum Ellie Kemper and created by NBC mainstays Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, after its slew of Emmy noms, Greenblatt defended the decision to take the series to Netflix. 

“We would love to claim those noms for NBC, but … we thought long and hard about the best way to launch the show,” he said. “[We wanted] to put the show in the best situation for success … and Netflix was the best move for that.”

Greenblatt continued to be bullish on the benefits of live television for the network.

“I am a live junkie,” he said. “It’s one of the tools we have available to us to try and compel audiences to watch something when we program it,” he said, referring to the challenges of time-shifted viewing. 

Pointing to comedy Undateable Live and live event series like TheSound of Music and Peter Pan as successful undertakings, Greenblatt said his next wish would be to find a drama to do in real-time. 

Greenblatt also touched on the network’s unique move in May when it made all episodes of the David Duchovny-starrer Aquarius available online and on VOD after its two-hour premiere.

He noted that while 94% of viewers still watched the program in a linear way, with 6% watching online, the median age digitally was 35, which skews younger than the network. 

“The fact that we were able to get a new sample of viewers that are younger, we look at that as a positive,” he said, noting that NBC is one of the more traditional networks which makes it important to look at ways to become less traditional. 

As far as Aquarius’ second season renewal despite less-than-stellar ratings, Greenblatt said numbers aren’t everything when looking at programming.

“The ratings report card is just a shackle. Every now and then we have to look beyond that.”

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