Press Tour 2012 Live-Blog: NBC Executive Session with Robert Greenblatt

BEVERLY HILLS – NBC actually finished third for the 2011-2012 season. Well, NBC finished tied for third among adults 18-49 for the 2011-2012 season. That’s the sort of optimism you can expect from NBC Entertainment Chief Robert Greenblatt when he meets with the Television Critics Association on Tuesday (July 24) morning at the Beverly Hilton.

Click through for the full live-blog…

9:07 a.m. “We had a great spring. I couldn’t be happier with what happened,” Greenblatt begins. “We’re very happy that we were No. 3 for the season,” Greenbatt gloats. He raves about the upcoming Olympics platform, Sunday Night Football, “Smash,” “Grimm” and late-night. But what he’s really excited about is the fall and Olympics.

9:08 a.m. “Go On,” “Animal Practice” and “Revolution” will have big Olympics-associated previews. For “Go On,” and “Animal Practice,” that means full episode-airing. For “Revolution,” that means a six-minute teaser after a swimming event.

9:08 a.m. Thursdays, September 20 and 27 will feature live “Saturday Night Live” specials, in case anybody was curious on the late premiere for… was it “30 Rock”?

9:11 a.m. Greenblatt says he may have more things to announce during the day, things he’d hoped to be able to announce now. Way to keep us in our seats.

9:12 a.m. Greenblatt is proud of the network’s development this year. So he’s bringing out some of his friends to shelter him during the panel. He’s joined by President of Entertainment Jennifer Salke, as well as Paul Telegdy, who’s in charge of unscripted and late-night.

9:14 a.m. The first question is a correct observation that Olympics audience has never made for a successful promotional platform, at least not for years. There will be cross-promotional tie-ins on all of Comcast’s sister stations, that’s got nothing to do with the Olympics question. “I certainly don’t think that the Olympics audience, which can be 30 or 40 or 50 million people per night is necessarily a rented audience,” Greenblatt swears. He doesn’t think NBC has ever run full pilots during the Olympics and he adds that there will be Olympics-specific promos for shows. “I don’t know about the past and what happened after the Olympics,” Greenblatt says, emphasizing quick and early fall premieres this year as potential boons. “Father of the Pride,” Mr. Greenblatt. “Father of the Pride.”

9:18 a.m. What’s happening with “Ready for Love”? It’ll premiere later. Are there concerns about bringing “The Voice” back again? “I will just say that almost every reality franchise does two cycles per season and one could argue that ‘American Idol’ and ‘X Factor’ are the same show,” Greenblatt says. He swears that “The Voice” will have some structural changes for the fall. “It’s a challenge for anyone producing one of these shows to keep it fresh or keep it vibrant,” Telegdy says. Telegdy says they’ve found ways to keep the competition with the coaches — Buttons and Chairs, mostly — going through the whole competition.

9:20 a.m. Regarding the two pilots aired during the Olympics, they’re not going to be worried about ratings or when things air, timeslot-wise.

9:21 a.m. NBC has just reorganized its Digital Group, bringing in Rob Hayes to run the group. Greenblatt calls Digital vital. “We’re going to do a lot of sampling… We just believe that these things aren’t cannibalistic to the linear number,” Greenblatt says. “We’re doing everything we can think of and trying to be ahead of the game, but it’s really, I would say, a top priority for us as we look at every aspect of our business,” Greenblatt says.

9:22 a.m. Why only 13 episodes for “Community” and why Friday nights? “I think we’re in a transition with our comedy programming and trying to broaden the audience and broaden what the network does,” Greenblatt says, noting that the network’s Thursday comedies are more narrow than they would like. Regarding “Community,” he says that they did 13 episodes “because we really wanted to get more comedies on the schedule.” There are a lot of comedies for midseason, ergo. “Which isn’t to say that we couldn’t at some point decide to extend those seasons later,” he adds. “Every so often it’s time to make a change with a showrunner,” he says. “Sometimes you want to freshen a show.” He adds, “no disrespect to anyone.” Would he categorically rule out another “Community” season? Greenblatt says, “I would love nothing more than for ‘Community’ to have a following on Friday and be able to continue it?”

9:26 a.m. How does Telegdy feel about The Howard Stern Experiment on “America’s Got Talent”? “Creatively we’re thrilled with Howard on the show,” Telegdy insists. He emphasizes that “AGT” is still No.1 despite drops. The network has looked at what has been asked of “AGT” through the summer. “Given the television landscape… we’re thrilled, actually, with the performance of the show. We’d be delighted if Howard wants to come back,” he says.

9:27 a.m. “This show, you’ll hear from him later today, is really his love letter to families,” Salke says of “The New Normal,” calling the first three episodes “accessible.” She says that the three episodes she’s read have all come back to “a warm, relatable” place. “It’s by no means centered on just the gay couple in the middle of it and the title isn’t meant to push the idea that that’s a more normal family than anyone else,” Salke says. 

9:28 a.m. Is the network concerned with the Ann Curry transition? This is none of Greenblatt’s business, because it’s an NBC News issue. He says that everybody in the News Division “could as much care as the could to make this transition happen,” blaming news leaks. “My heart goes out to those people, including Ann and everybody who went through that transition,” Greenblatt says. He expects that broadcasting “Today” live from the Olympics will give the show a boost, calling the network “bullish” on its future.

9:30 a.m. Is there any concern about dropping ratings and poor sales for “Voice” winners and the idea that the judges are the stars, rather than the contestants? “In terms of returning the focus of the show to the contestants, that’s obviously something that we discuss with the talent and we’re confident that we have a plan for ‘The Voice,'” Telegdy says.

9:31 a.m. “These shows, especially the Thursday night shows, are just great shows. They’re award-winning and they’re incredibly sophisticated and clever and we couldn’t be prouder of them,” Greenblatt says of the network’s nichier shows. “We’re in this transition,” Greenblatt says again, saying he hopes that critics and audiences like the new shows, but he also wants to broaden the size of the audience. “I don’t want to say anything negative about what Tina Fey does or ‘Parks and Rec’ or ‘The Office’…” he says. Salke says that the network’s creators of even the niche shows are being told to try to be more inclusive as well. Salke says the network is “in the awkward stage.” “It’s kind of an evolving comedy brand,” Salke says.

9:34 a.m. NBC felt that it had a strong comedy slate and that “The Mindy Project” was in contention for a long time, but they ultimately decided that it would be “a great show for FOX.” So that’s why “Mindy Project” isn’t on NBC. “We have very high hopes for it. We have a business plan to build a studio that can sell anywhere and can have hit shows on other networks,” Salke says. Greenblatt reminds us that “House” made a lot of money for both Universal and FOX, while “Modern Family” is doing well for both ABC and 20th Century Fox TV.

9:36 a.m. “We did buy into visions from creators, which we felt were funny, specific, emotional and original,” Salke says. The network had been looking for a way to have a show in which animals were organic to the show, referencing “Animal Practice,” which Salke calls “Animal Kingdom,” before correcting herself. “I think it’s the originality thing. You can’t underestimate it,” Salke says.

9:37 a.m. Greenblatt is asked about “Whitney” and “Chelsea” and “Up All Night.” Greenblatt calls “Whitney” and “Up All Night” steps in the right direction, which is why they’re back. He reminds us that sometimes it takes shows a couple seasons to find themselves.

9:39 a.m. What does NBC see in “Go On,” which Sepinwall compares to the “Community” pilot? “We’re looking for soulful comedy that can make you laugh, make you cry,” Salke says, calling the show’s core more accessible. She then describes 20 things that could be said about the “Community” pilot as signs of accessibility. “It’s really about these larger themes that are incredibly relatable,” Salke says, swearing that “Go On” hasn’t narrowed around Matthew Perry or sports. 

9:41 a.m. “We’re looking for stuff that doesn’t live in the middle,” Salke says. [Am I the only one feeling that a lot of this is conflicted?] All of the shows need to have points-of-view. They also love the ensemble on “Animal Practice” and the idea that they’re telling emotional stories about animals every week. 

9:43 a.m. What’s happened to NBC that the network is willing to air “Rock Center” in the once-powerful Thursday 10 p.m. hour? It’s a long answer, but it boils down to “You can’t do everything all at once,” albeit not in those words. Ooops. Now in those words. “You can’t do everything in a season,” Greenblatt says. They like “Rock Center” and they felt it needs more time and deserves a 10 p.m. time period. “As the season unfolds, we will look at it and see what happens,” he says. Everybody in the News Division knows what they need to do to go in the direction of “stories that are really compelling.” He wants “Rock Center” to continue to be a different animal from “Dateline.”

9:47 a.m. Last question is about how “Smash” is changing into Season 2. “I’m gonna say this for the record: I’m inordinately proud of ‘Smash’ on so many levels,” Greenblatt says, talking about the various production challenges. That said, he calls it a soap opera and says that with soap operas, you have to evaluate and reevaluate characters at the end of the season. He says they didn’t do as well with the arcing of storylines. “I think we were inconsistent, going back and forth with some things,” Greenblatt says, raving about the core six actors, as well as Jennifer Hudson and Jeremy Jordan, who will be joining the cast. “We just started shooting Episode 1, there are some great new storylines and we’re really excited about it,” Greenblatt says. Salke raves at the season pitched by the new showrunner. 

That’s all, folks…