Last time we met with NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, he was celebrating a relatively successful fall and telling us that the first season of “Smash” was “an unqualified success.”
Let’s see how Greenblatt handles questions on Saturday (July 27) morning…
9:45 a.m. We’ve also got NBC Entertainment Jennifer Salke, who has already apologized multiple times for being tired today, and Alternative/Late Night President Paul Telegdy.
9:45 a.m. “For us, it was a year of improvement,” Greenblatt says, articulating our theme for the day. This was their most competitive year in the last nine years and they’re getting closer to No. 2 and even to No. 1. He admits that the network’s fourth quarter domination may have set too-high expectations. “How good is it to celebrate being flat? At this point in our business, flat is the new up,” he says.
9:48 a.m. They won 16 weeks this season, compared to only five the previous season. Even when you take away sports, NBC improved 30 of 43 weeks this year. Monday and Tuesday were both improved over last year, as was Wednesday and those were big goals for NBC. NBC’s also happy with late night. And 8 NBC shows improved by 50 percent plus when you look at Live+7 numbers. Of course, that includes “Smash,” which NBC cancelled. So… Yeah. Six NBC shows add 3 million viewers or more in time shifting.
9:51 a.m. Another theme for the day? “We need to be in the Event Business,” Greenblatt says. “Live is really important these days when you’re trying to fight the DVR and build the biggest number you can for the premiere of a show,” Greenblatt says. He’s excited about “The Million Second Quiz,” as well as the December live “Sound of Music” musical. Specials are also important for NBC. “We’re looking for more and more of those events,” Greenblatt says, promising the announcement of more specials in upcoming weeks. They’re also trying to come up with events associated with individual series. He cites the return of Michael J. Fox as an event and suggests that “Blacklist” is “going to feel like an event.” NBC is also diving into the miniseries/limited series department, with the sequel to “The Bible” and whatnot. They have a six-hour “Cleopatra” miniseries in development and they have four other miniseries projects that are being announced this morning.
9:55 a.m. They’re doing a four-hour miniseries about Hillary Clinton starring Diane Lane. They’re doing an remake of “Rosemary’s Baby.” They’re doing a new version of Stephen King’s “Tommyknockers.” And they’re doing another Mark Burnett miniseries called “Plymouth.” “It’s a varied group of ideas and concepts,” Greenblatt says.
9:57 a.m. The first question is about “Revolution” moving from North Carolina to Texas. Greenblatt says that it’s a “nomadic” show and they looked at North Carolina and decided they had mined the exteriors. The show is also moving to Texas this year.
9:58 a.m. Does NBC see a future in game shows? “Anything can sorta shake up the landscape and say to the audience, ‘We have something special,'” Greenblatt says, recalling the “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire” phenomenon. “The Million Second Quiz” will play out over two weeks and it’ll have an ap and there will be an element where people at home can be flown to New York to appear on the show. “It’s a great big live event,” repeats Paul Telegdy. The goal is to couple the live experience with a social and interactive experience. In fact, it’s a David/Goliath story, Telegdy says. Greenblatt wants to emphasize that it’s also accessible. He also compares it to “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”
10:02 a.m. Who’s playing Bill Clinton in the Hillary miniseries? They haven’t cast yet. In fact, it doesn’t have anything other than a script so far. They’re not worried about “equal time.”
10:03 a.m. NBC improved, but they also had a high fail-rate. “You go through your season and you work your ass off and you hope that some of these shows connect,” Greenblatt says, calling comedy “frustrating.” He admits to being disappointed that “Go On” and “New Normal” didn’t go forward. He points to “Chicago Fire” and “Revolution” as success stories. “You have to make those really difficult calls about what you can renew at what rating and we had to make very difficult calls,” Greenblatt says.
10:05 a.m. Why is “The Michael J. Fox Show” at 9:30 rather than 9? “We spent a lot of time talking about that Thursday lineup,” Greenblatt says, calling it their “most scrutinized night of television.” They aren’t spending more money on any other show in that time period and they went back-and-forth about where to schedule it. He says that they wanted to build a family night on Thursday and they looked at different configurations. He expects a huge initial turnout for the show based on “universal love” for Fox and he’s already expecting a big fall-off in the second week. “We didn’t want to put him so much in the line of fire,” Greenblatt says, hinting that “it could conceivably change.”
10:07 a.m. Did NBC wish it had more “Parenthood” last season? “It doesn’t get the Emmy nominations. It doesn’t get the accolades. It’s one of the best shows on television. I wish it had more of that acclaim,” Greenblatt says. He agrees that he wished that NBC had more than 16 last season. They’re happy to have 22 this year.
10:09 a.m. “Hannibal” and “Grimm” questions. Salke knows that “Hannibal” pushes the edge of the envelop in content and she thinks it’s important to “send a message to the community” that they support that kind of vision. Salke knows that audiences expected NBC to pull the show and they wanted to send the message that they would “support a creator with a vision that felt like it was a little bit out-there” in terms of content. Greenblatt says that whenever they moved “Grimm” to other nights, he heard from viewers who didn’t want it pulled from Fridays, but admits he has no scientific data on this. And that’s why it’s staying on Friday, but they’ve built a night that’s “a little bit more genre.” He even references that last year’s “Mockingbird Lane” experiment helped prove they could craft a genre night.
10:12 a.m. “We actually really loved the show. We were big fans of the show,” Salke says of “The New Normal,” but she has no idea why people didn’t watch. “I don’t believe it didn’t work because it had gay characters as the lead characters,” Greenblatt adds. “We think the country is moving in the right direction,” Greenblatt adds, though it admits “it may have been slightly before its time.” They note that Sean Hayes’ new show is a very different kind of show.
10:14 a.m. Is there any chance that flat is the new up because of quality? And why can’t broadcast shows get Emmy nominations? “I don’t think there’s inferior product or I wouldn’t have taken this job,” Greenblatt says. “Well, there’s some inferior product,” Salke admits. A big difference, Greenblatt suggests is that Showtime only has to make one show a year. He says that network TV has become the “bastard child,” perception-wise. “They just look at the shiny new bulb in the cable world,” Greenblatt says of award-voters. “Look, I wish we could get more respect for the good work we do,” he sighs.
10:17 a.m. When it’s pointed out that NBC was actually slightly down for the past season, Greenblatt admits that the questioner could be right and that when the summer is added in, NBC is flat.
10:18 a.m. Greenblatt tries saying that most cable shows do ratings that would get them cancelled in the network world. Kinda.
10:19 a.m. How graphic is “Dracula” compared to “Hannibal”? “I’ll take any vampire fans I can get,” Greenblatt says, emphasizing that it’s not going to be as graphic. “It’s romantic, epic and there’s definitely violence to it, but there’s definitely a different feel,” Salke says.
10:20 a.m. Where are the female leads at? “I think we cast the net out there and make the decisions based on so much material and there are several female oriented shows that we developed that, for one reason or another, you don’t see on the schedule,” Greenblatt admits.
10:22 a.m. “Our delivery system works when we put down it things that America wants to watch,” Telegdy says. Salke recalls being in a dry spell at 20th Century Fox and then developing “Glee” and “Modern Family.” Salke says it’s all about what excites them and gets their juices flowing.
10:24 a.m. What’s up with “Celebrity Apprentice”? And are they concerned about online feelings about Donald Trump? The answer is that they’re involved in “the restocking of the celebrity pond.” So there are no commitments to “Celebrity Apprentice,” but if they can cast it they may do it. “We live in a country where free speech is entirely supported,” Telegdy says. “He’s in the business of creating his own headlines and we’re in the business of creating our own,” he says.
10:26 a.m. Late night question! “Jay has done an incredibly job for more than two decades. He’s actually one of the nicest people you will ever meet and he’s been just a great team player in all of these transitional decisions,” Greenblatt says. They expected a final season boost for Jay. They’ve been having transitional discussions since Greenblatt arrived. They knew they had an Olympics platform during the season and they wanted to use that platform to help Jimmy Fallon have the best chance of succeeding. “We also really believe in Jimmy Fallon. We had the successor,” Greenblatt says. “We’d love him to stay on NBC in some capacity,” Greenblatt says of keeping Jay around in the future.
10:29 a.m. Greenblatt says that “SNL” is always restocking and this was just time for some of these people to move on. “You hold onto them as long as you can, but there’s nobody better at combing this country and finding the next generation of these actors than Lorne,” Greenblatt says. “He’s hunkered down and he’s doing the job looking for the next generation.”
10:31 a.m. Last question is about Seth Meyers. Is Seth being groomed effectively to go for a different network, since he’s slightly older than Fallon? Greenblatt says they’ll be happy to have discussions in 10 or 15 years if Seth is starting to chafe. He doesn’t expect to be around. So… Who knows?
That’s all, folks…