While NBC's primetime has yet to show it's on solid footing,
the network's affiliates liked what they saw in the upfront presentation at
Radio City Music Hall, and feel NBC is on the right path to prime success. With
the Roots providing the musical backdrop, Bob Greenblatt, NBC entertainment
chairman, and Jennifer Salke, entertainment president, showed off the new
"NBC is obviously focused on building upon its success
this year," said Jordan Wertlieb, affiliates board chairman and executive
VP at Hearst Television, mentioning Revolution
and Chicago Fire. "It's nice to
see procedural dramas at 10 p.m. With so much delayed viewing (via DVR), it's
important to capture as much audience flow in and out of a time period as
Wertlieb singled out rookies Ironside, a drama featuring Blair Underwood as a streetwise
detective in a wheelchair (Raymond Burr starred in NBC's first Ironside decades ago); and The Blacklist, a dark drama starring a
creepy James Spader. He said the latter, sliding into a post-The Voice slot on Mondays, offers
viewers two hooks each week: the relationship between protagonist bad guy
Spader and a young female law enforcement official, and a mystery to solve.
Brian Lawlor, the Scripps senior VP who passed the
affiliates board chairman torch to Wertlieb a year ago, said it was the best
NBC upfront presentation he'd seen in years. "There were three real solid
dramas and three really funny comedies," he said.
Lawlor notes that Greenblatt started essentially from
scratch on primetime a few years ago, and has made substantial strides a night
at a time: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and, with any luck, Wednesday. "They
laid out a plan and they've followed it," says Lawlor. "They've tried
to build strategically and now it's paying off."
The Michael J. Fox
Show, starring Fox as a WNBC New York anchor overcoming challenges brought
on by Parkinson's Disease and his overbearing family, was deemed best of the
comedy bunch. Fox has goodwill with affiliates dating back to his role on Family Ties in the mid â€˜80s.
"Everybody loves Michael J. Fox," says Diane Kniowski, vice president
and general manager at WOOD Grand Rapids. "They always will."
It's understandable if some NBC affiliates walked out of
Radio City with some skepticism. After all, they're shown a long lineup of
sizzle reels each May, many which look to be the one to yank NBC out of the
primetime cellar, only to see the large majority of the programs disappear by
the following May. Last year, for example, the comedies Go On, Animal Practice
and Guys With Kids drew high marks.
None of them will see a sophomore season, while Animal Practice did not make it out of October.
Several NBC affiliates around the nation are losing their
longtime leads in the lucrative late news race as NBC continues to find its
footing in prime.
"It's a lot easier to lead an audience that's already
there straight into late news," says Kniowski. "It's a lot harder to
get people to turn the channel."
Wertlieb noted that NBC has three seasons: a fall featuring Sunday Night Football, spring, and a
summer campaign featuring popular reality and, this year, the Olympics. It is
currently competitive in two of the three and -- if anything shared at its
upfront presentation can stick -- NBC can be competitive in all three.
"There's a lot to be optimistic
about," said Wertlieb.