The grapes are the programs. NBC, by all accounts, will look for fertile ground, offering up its fall schedule with solid programming weeks before any other network.
Critics have screamed NBC might be showing its cards too soon, possibly giving the other networks an advantage. Then again, NBC is saying it's all about a 52-week schedule. That means programs and changes can occur all year round. When a show is ready, it doesn't go to pilot. It goes on the air. That's a nice plan.
NBC doesn't want to spend $7 million on a pilot about a child that is kidnapped all season long (Last season's "Kidnapped") only to get a lukewarm response from advertisers, says Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment. NBC wants to know the verdict before it produces that pilot.
I always thought that was what those spring program development meetings were for. Now I think those meetings were merely one-way streets -- with the networks telling advertisers what would be on their schedules, but not looking for input.
So now it seems NBC wants to get the consensus of some 300 upfront advertisers for shows all year round. Would you buy this procedural crime satire? Would you help us figure out a way to get your power bar, your vitamin water, in our new athletic competition/gymnastic reality show?
This is all good news. But marketers don't work at the same pace as TV production executives. And there's the rub. Beverage companies, toy manufacturers, cruise ship operators, DVD producers, all have seasonable consumer marketing demands, which may or may not be aligned with those of TV producers.
But maybe TV producers aren't just like quick-fix colas anymore.
"Programming should be like a good wine," Charlie Rutman, chief executive for North American operations of MPG, told The New York Times. "Put it on the air when it's ready."