Press Tour is alive and well in Pasadena, and NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt and reality head Paul Telegdy took the stage alongside programming president Jennifer Salke, taking questions earlier today about the success of the network’s fall season, breaking a nine-year sweeps losing streak. While much was learned of NBC’s strategy for the next three months, in which the two series responsible for the network’s huge autumn numbers, The Voice and Revolution, will be on the shelf, the big takeaway is that NBC is supremely confident.
Hell, they’re bordering on cocky.
In response to Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly’s recent assertion that “a lot of us have our head up our asses,” Greenblatt went on the offensive. “That may be true of other places,” the NBC entertainment chairman said. “I can guarantee you, we don’t have our heads up our asses.” He would go on to say, “I think last year I came right out and admitted that we’d had a bad fall.” Given the failures of series like Free Agents, Prime Suspect, and The Playboy Club, he sure isn’t kidding. However, Greenblatt remained optimistic. “Well, I’m not saying that this year.”
Greenblatt has every right to boast. NBC finished first this fall in the key adults 18-49 demographic, touting a 24 percent improvement in a demo where all other major networks dropped. “…CBS is down 13 percent, ABC is down 4 percent and Fox is down 23 percent. We all know CBS still beats us among total viewers, but we’re now a clear No. 2. We were a distant fourth a year ago.”
However, Greenblatt acknowledged the risk in taking the two biggest shows of the fall off the air until March. He claimed that pairing Revolution with The Voice as a lead-in, and keeping it on the shelf for three months instead of parsing out the remaining episodes over the course of five months was “the safer play”. It also helps that Revolution won’t be left to wallow alone on Monday nights with the mammoth lead-in The Voice provides.
In keeping with their offensive against other networks, the trio called out ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, which underperformed in the ratings to a degree not yet seen by the series, despite touting a fan favorite-studded “all stars” edition. “I was baffled why they went the all-star route on Dancing, most of the producers were, as well,” said Telegdy. “That’s a show where you’re seeing someone who allegedly can’t dance at the start of the show and whose performance improves over many weeks. That story seems to be removed from the all?star iteration.”
Of course, this hasn’t stopped NBC from launching an All-Star Celebrity Apprentice for on Sunday, March 3 at 9:00 p.m., with Marilu Henner, Trace Adkins, Stephen Baldwin, Omarosa, Gary Busey, Lil Jon and Lisa Rinna, among others. But I can’t really blame NBC for going back to that well.
Other news and notes from press tour:
-Salke denied reports that writer/director David Lynch would be rebooting “Twin Peaks” on the Peacock network. “It sounds like an interesting idea,” she said, “but we have not gotten a call.”
-The reason NBC abandoned plans for an “Office” spin-off with Dwight Schrute? Greenblatt argued that it felt “like it was a move into an even more narrow — but probably beloved — world, instead of trying to stay loyal to the brand…”. In addition, Greenblatt added that he doesn’t expect Steve Carell back for “The Office” finale, given his satisfaction with his original exit.
-Concerning the forthcoming Michael J. Fox family sitcom launching this fall (and over which several networks engaged in a bidding war), Fox’s real-life affliction with Parkinson’s Disease will be integrated into the series, as Fox will play a newsman struggling with the illness. “The story of the pilot is actually him coming back into a seat at the [newscast] … and the family rallying around him,” said Salke. “He approaches his life and his work with a lot of irreverence and he laughs at himself and his kids joke about him.”
-NBC is intending to launch their aptly-titled Hannibal Lecter prequel series Hannibal in late spring/early summer, while the network is also eyeing a fall premiere for the Jonathan Rhys Meyers-starring Dracula. He’s still Henry VIII to me, sorry. (This is not a bad thing, however)
-The network has given a 13-episode order to Camp, from Liz Heldens and Peter Elkoff of NBC’s upcoming “Deception”. The project is described as a “sly new drama series.” It begins production in March, shooting in Australia even though, ostensibly, the series will have nothing to do with the country. The network is eyeing a summer premiere date, which will likely fit with the mood of the series, which NBC compares to films like “Meatballs” and “Dazed and Confused”. The series revolves around the happenings at Little Hawk Family Camp, where “parents decompress with gin while teenagers make gleeful mischief and fall in and out of love.”
Salke enthusiastically endorsed the project, stating, “In our desire to make summer an exciting place at NBC along with our signature unscripted shows like ‘America’s Got Talent,’ ‘The Voice’ and ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ we developed a scripted dramedy we love with BermanBraun that has rich and dysfunctional characters in that great setting where millions of families and young people go each summer: camp. Most of us have had great experiences at camp, and this show — created by two of our favorite producers, Liz Heldens (creator of ‘Deception’) and Peter Elkoff (co-executive producer of ‘Deception’) — is sophisticated, funny, and emotional, and we think it will be the ideal summer series for us.” Via: HitFix
NBC, Greenblatt in particular, seem to recognize that they won’t be number one forever. From this standpoint, they’ve adopted a pretty rigorous strategy to retain as much of their audience as possible, while rolling out new series to snag whatever audiences are up-for-grabs. We’ll see, soon enough, if the strategy works.