Los Angeles – NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt touted that "flat is the new up" in justifying the network's performance last season at the TCA press tour on Saturday. But to keep ratings flat, or more hopefully ticking up, he laid out a strategy focused on event programming – including sports, live specials and scripted programming.
“We need to be in the event business,” he said. “I think you’re going to hear that from every broadcast network. We look at events in many different ways. Live is really important these days in trying to fight the DVR and build the biggest audience you can.”
Greenblatt mentioned the importance of sporting events from the NFL and the Olympics, reality shows like America’s Got Talent to NBC’s upcoming live game show The Million Second Quiz, its live staging of The Sound of Music, as well as variety entries like Saturday Night Live and its late night talk shows and holiday specials like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Fourth of July fireworks.
“We’re looking for more and more of those kind of events,” he said. “It also has to go into the scripted side of things. The other way to do events is something that we’re moving into very aggressively, which is miniseries and limited series.”
In that space, NBC on Saturday announced the pick-up of four new event projects – a Hillary Clinton miniseries starring Diane Lane, an update of Rosemary’s Baby and Stephen King’s Tommyknockers and a limited series about Plymouth Rock from Mark Burnett.
Since the deals for the projects just closed Friday, the network is just starting t think about where they might schedule them, whether to repalce repeats in-season as ABC will do this year or as summer events like CBS' Under the Dome.
"As far as scheduling
we have to sit with [chief scheduler Jeff] Bader and really go through the year and figure out where
these things have an opportunity and also what the financial upside is for them,
but we're determined to put them on," NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke told reporters after the session.
Other highlights from the NBC executive session included:
• Despite broadcast being shut out of the outstanding drama series Emmy category for the second consecutive year, Greenblatt rejected the idea that networks can’t create quality shows. “I don’t think there’s inferior product or I wouldn’t have taken this job. If we could put on one show a year, it would be the best show you ever saw… I wish we could get more respect for the good work that we do.”
• Celebrity Apprentice has not officially been picked up for another season, but it’s not because of host Donald Trump’s polarizing comments. “For the celebrity iteration of The Apprentice we need to know that we can cast the show. That’s the process we’re in. That can take some time,” said Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and late night programming at NBC. “We live in a country where free speech is supported and his opinions are not the opinions of anyone on this panel. We’ll make our decisions on whether to program The Apprentice on whether the program will still rate.”
• Greenblatt stressed discussions about The Tonight Show transition have been ongoing since he arrived at the network in 2011, and that timing to pass the torch to Jimmy Fallon was driven by the once-in-four-years promotional platform offered by the Olympics. But he said the network is interested in keeping Jay Leno in the fold after the transition next February. “We’ve been having conversations with Jay,” he said. “We would love to have him stay on NBC in some capacity, nothing would make us happier some presence on network. There’s nothing official to report, but really hoping we can do that.”
• Jason Sudeikis confirming last week that he won’t return to Saturday Night Live makes three high-profile departures for the venerable late night show this season (after Bill Hader and Fred Armisen), but Greenblatt expressed faith that creator Lorne Michael would be able to restock the ranks. “SNL goes through these upheavals every year to some degree, and every few years to a larger degree. Would we have preferred to keep [them] for more time? Absolutely. But there’s nobody better at combing the country and finding the next generation of these actors than Lorne. We’re confident that he’s going to do that again for us.”