NBC's Greenblatt Confronts Programming Challenges


Pasadena, Calif -- NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt was honest about the network's continued viewership doldrums.

"We had a really bad fall -- which I kind of expected," he says, speaking at the Television Critics Association meeting here.

Greenblatt took over the network early in 2011, coming from Showtime. Blame, he says, goes to the scarcity of good lead-ins, some departing high-profile talent, among other reasons.

The good news is that new owners, Comcast Corp., are in it for the long haul, he says. They are investing in programming and have patience. "Next week, we are going to pick up a slew of pilots," he said.

In the near term, NBC will count on the second season return of "The Voice," its big midseason singing competition hit reality show, and "Smash," its scripted musical Broadway-themed drama -- both of which will get a heavy marketing push from the Super Bowl in a few weeks.

For the summer, NBC will count on energy from new judge Howard Stern on "America's Got Talent," as well as the London Summer Olympics after that.

Greenblatt says there are still significanct differences in programming a broadcast network from a pay TV network like Showtime, where he was the senior programming executive. He uses the example of the now NBC cancelled -- but critically positive -- drama "Prime Suspect."

"'Prime Suspect' would have been picked up after three or four episodes on Showtime, declared a hit, and been on air for four or five years," he says. Greenblatt says the formula could apply for most cable shows. "And you waste no money in pilot and development production costs."

Launching shows on networks is still hard -- especially with less promotional advertising time to devote to shows: "You can't spend $20 million on every ad campaign. It's easier to do on cable."

Concerning the new show "Smash," it'll get a lead in on Monday night from "The Voice." Greenblatt says it will make sense to have two singing/music-oriented shows on the same night. "Smash" will run at 10 p.m.

"You are going to see a cable-like launch for ["Smash"]," he says. "You are going to see a full-court press." This includes promotion in the Super Bowl, as well as special sneak preview on Comcast's Xfinity on-demand digital platform.

Overall, Greenblatt says: "You need four or five shows to turn things around [on a broadcast network]", in contrast to cable, where a network needs one or two to get the same result. "We have a long road ahead of us."



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