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NBC execs don't seem to know much about NBC - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Aug 5th 2009 2:21PM
NBC logoWe just got done with the NBC executive session, where primetime entertainment head Angela Bromstad and alternative programming (read: reality) chief Paul Telegdy took the reporters questions.

Of course, many of the questions had to do with The Jay Leno Show and Ben Silverman's departure. What the gathered reporters got out of the two executives was evasiveness, referrals to other executives, and a general sense that the two of them either don't know or don't want to provide answers about their own network.

When the question of Leno and CBS's Nina Tassler's assertion that NBC would declare victory no matter what numbers they got, Bromstad tried to pass us to the session for Leno's show later in the day. Telegdy did the same. But we wouldn't let them off the hook. An example exchange, for instance, went like this:

Bromstad: "There will be a lot of things that mean success for this show."
Reporter: "Meaning what?"

The two finally relented that the 52-week cumulative number is what they're going to be looking for.

Of course, with Leno goes Conan. Bromstad thinks that the fall will be the great testing ground for the new Tonight Show, but that they're still doing well in the 18-to-49 demo, despite the overall lower ratings for the show.

When I tried to pin them down on why they still declare Conan the "king of late night" despite these numbers -- Jay was also number one in late night, according to NBC, but legitimately -- the two tried to again pass us off onto the Leno panel and late-night head Rick Ludwin. But after pressing, they finally relented and said that they market based on whatever numbers are favorable to them. While that notion isn't new, it's refreshing to hear a network head cop to it.

There was a lot of talk about the "NBC brand," but they couldn't seem to pin down what that brand was. Telegdy said being "on brand" meant the show was about "Real people, people our viewers identify with, fundamentally positive, embraces the comedy brand, but is optimistic." But Bromstad then went on to say that SVU, The Office, 30 Rock, and pretty much all their existing shows fit into that brand. Not that they don't, but it seems like they were struggling to figure out what being "on brand" exactly meant.

It almost feels like the two execs had been "Zuckerized," to coin a term. Jeff Zucker has never been one the critics' biggest fans, and I'm wondering if he ordered his minions to be purposefully evasive.

Other tidbits:

  • Bromstad said that Chuck is on a "great track creatively." It's a show they could move into a slot when needed. Right now it's not scheduled to reappear until March, but it could easily air sooner or later... even in the summer.
  • Bryan Fuller only stayed long enough at Heroes to get things going in the right direction, according to Bromstad. They have a development deal with him, and they're happy that he's starting to work on new shows.
  • When asked about not bringing back Medium, Bromstad said that they tried to make a deal to bring it back but couldn't. As to Glenn Caron's assertion that the show got better ratings than Chuck, Bromstad disagreed.
  • Bromstad generated the biggest laughs among the critics when she said about Ben Silverman's departure: "This has always been Ben's plan to transition back to entrepreneurial roots."
  • About having less hours to fill with scripted shows: ""Every single scripted hour of comedy or drama has to count. Does Leno make that easier for us? It does."
  • On whether they should take a cue from their successful cable arm, Bromstad said: "We're not a dual-revenue model like cable is. So we have to find our own model."
  • When a reporter complained about the "excruciating" two hour episodes of The Celebrity Apprentice, Telegdy replied that "It grows (in viewership) in its second hour," which is good for them in a tough-to-program night. "I'm sorry you're not a fan, but a lot of people are."
  • On Southland: "They tried to do too much in those first six episodes. It will focus on Regina King and Ben McKenzie, and focus on crimes and how they come together."
  • Bromstad on Friday Night Lights: "It's sensational, on brand, but ratings aren't good enough." They will try to make it a "premiere summer program that is on brand."
  • Bromstad passed off a question about SyFy name change to cable group head Bonnie Hammer, who will be around later. Yes, it's not her department, but after all the rest of the dodges about Leno, this did not look good.
  • Three of the six Thursday-night Weekend Update specials have already been scheduled. They're there to back-fill for the late start of 30 Rock, which has started late the last few years to accommodate Alec Baldwin's movie schedule.
  • When asked about the suddenly available Paula Abdul joining NBC, Telegdy would only say that there are no specific plans to talk to her, "but we wouldn't rule anything out."

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I just think its a shame NBC executives don't just sit down, find a niche in the programming that has broad appeal, then create shows and stick with them. They were a big name just a few years ago with ER,Friends, Law&Order, L&O:SVU, Vegas, Third Watch, etc. Instead of floundering around or so obviously throwing in the towel by abdicating 5 primetime hours a week to a talk show, they should seriously and actively seek to reinvent themselves. Find a direction, picksome quality shows, advertise the hell out of them, and stick with them long enough to gain stable viewers. Their ratings couldn't be any worse.

August 13 2009 at 3:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I liked the two-hour Celebrity Apprenticeseses. They did drag a tiny bit in parts but when it's a show with those kind of projects there's usually a lot interesting going on, and more board room is always good.

August 05 2009 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if anyone will ask Leno if his new show will actually have some minorities in front of AND behind the camera? (Outside of the band, that is.) If its NBC's biggest show, and they are supposedly a national network, it should have people working on it who actually look like the nation.

August 05 2009 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I knew Chuck's renewal had to have a catch to it. March or in the summer?! Chucking NBC...

August 05 2009 at 2:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

Chuck isn't coming back until March?? Or possibly next summer?? Gah.

August 05 2009 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Bob Sassone's comment
Jeff N.

That is waaaay too long to wait for new episodes of Chuck. There will be zero momentum!

August 05 2009 at 3:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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