Network Execs: Sometimes Job "Sucks"

Two recurring themes for network programming executives: They'd rather stay out of the way when it comes to TV producers' visions; and when you're down in the dumps, you can always take chances.

The latter is obviously the song NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly plays in his head.

"That's why I took the job -- I knew what I was in for. That's when you can do something fun--what have you got to lose?" he told the Hollywood Radio & Television Society and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

But the real clue is when he said later that, in fact, network programming is not--at this moment, at least--really edgy and fun. Those qualities belongs to the competition. "Cable stole our thunder," he added. But Reilly said--as anyone in his big-stage position would--that the network will make a return to No. 1 status.

Network executives also typically like to say they give producers and showrunners the reins and let them do what they need to without meddling. But not always. And then it can be a double-edged sword.



"There's nothing more terrifying than a showrunner who listens to what you say," said ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson. UPN President Dawn Ostroff said she just gets out of the way of the creators of "Veronica Mars" and "Everybody Hates Chris" because they are passionate about their work. "You get something more pure when they have a vision. Why get in their way when someone has got the road map in their mind?"

So multiply all these concerns by new technology that has TV programming running on iPods, the Internet, or mobile phones, and you've got one hard job--one that needs to be taken with plenty of humor.

"Some days it couldn't suck more," admitted Reilly. "In the morning someone calls you a genius, and in the afternoon you're fending off rumors that you've been fired."

But then--in the middle of chaos--these executives find magic in a bottle. A "Desperate Housewives." The first season of "Apprentice." "American Idol."

That makes it fun for us, and apparently for Reilly. We can only hope he really means what he says--that there's nothing to lose.

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