Press Tour 2013 Live-Blog: NBC Executive Session with Robert Greenblatt

01.06.13 6 years ago 9 Comments

I like the picture accompanying this live-blog. It speaks to a more innocent time when NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt and Crystal the  Monkey were very much in love and hope for “Animal Practice” sprung eternal.


Good times.

There will be no Crystal at NBC’s Sunday (January 6) executive session with Greenblatt, Paul Telegdy and Jennifer Salke, but Crystal’s simian presence is sure to be replaced with a new-found sense of optimism at the network.

Click through for the full executive session live-blog…

9:45 a.m. ET. Critics are pouring into the ballroom having spent breakfast with Gary Busey and several people associated with “Celebrity Apprentice.” I’d have gone if Trump had been there. He was not.

9:51 a.m. NBC begins with a clip package that announces “What a difference a year makes…” I believe that’s what we call “establishing a theme” or possibly “setting the narrative.”

9:53 a.m. Robert Greenblatt was sick over the holidays, but he’s better now. “As you saw in the clip, what a difference a year makes,” Greenblatt says. He celebrates the momentum from the Super Bowl into the Olympics into the fall. He boasts about how the promotional platform of the Olympics helped NBC launch its fall. [This isn’t exactly true, but whatever…] “The good news is the strategy worked and it worked better than I think any of us thought it would,” he says, before launching into stats. NBC is up 24 percent 18-49 and up 19 percent in total viewers. In fact, NBC is the only network to be up in ANY key measure. Yikes. FOX is down 23 percent. Ouch. Greenblatt also boasts that in addition to being No. 1 in the 18-49 demo, NBC is a clear No. 2 in total viewers.

9:56 a.m. Sunday Night Football, “The Voice,” “Go On,” “Revolution” and even “Grimm” get shout-outs as major assets. “The Voice” gets particular praise, especially for boosting its time period and kicking the snot out of “The X Factor.” Plus, “The Voice” helped launch a hit new drama and a hit new comedy. Greenblatt boasts that not only does it do big live numbers, but in Live+7, “Revolution” rises 62 percent. I suspect Greenblatt is going to give gloating statistics for an hour.

9:59 a.m. Kind words for “Parenthood,” which has moved ahead of ‘Vegas” 18-49. Also some kind words for the “traction” from “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” And don’t forget that “Chicago Fire” is, relatively speaking, a success. Specifically, Greeblatt praises “Chicago Fire” for hitting series records and topping its premiere number on four occasions.

10 a.m. “We’re in transitions on Thursday,” Greenblatt says, promising that that night will be a priority in the spring and fall. He praises the comedies, though, for their “upscale” numbers.

10:01 a.m. NBC is the only network getting younger, with a median age of 48.4.  In case you were curious, CBS’ median age is 56.4. FOX’s median age is 45.7 and The CW’s median age is 41.2. These numbers are, of course, ridiculous, since The CW would tell you that its TARGET demo doesn’t watch TV in traditional ways.

10:03 a.m. Greenblatt promises NBC has a “robust” midseason plan and that the network is already looking forward to fall and even to the 2014 Olympics. 

10:04 a.m. NBC has greenlit a summer dramedy called “Camp” from the people who brought the network “Deception.” 

10:06 a.m. Greenblatt says that “Hannibal” and “Save Me” *might* be on TV later this season. 

10:07 a.m. “We’ve made our share of mistakes and we certainly haven’t done everything right… but we’re all working hard on every front,” Greenblatt says. “We’ve made some great strides forward and we know their are lots of ups and downs ahead of us,” he adds. “At the end of the day, all we can do is try to attract the best people in the business to come to NBC,” he adds, saying then it’s NBC’s responsibility to create an environment for those people to do their best work.

10:08 a.m. Grant Tinker reference! Finally, Greenblatt stops filibustering. Question time…

10:09 a.m. Salke says that the first episode of the Michael J. Fox comedy is getting ready to get going. Salke reminds us that the comedy is based on Fox’s life. In this version, he’s a newscaster, not an actor. The character steps down from his job and he’s going on a new medication that helps him function. So the story of the pilot is his character returning to the news. “At the end of the day, he approaches his life and his work with a lot of irreverence,” Salke says. 

10:11 a.m. “We were all stricken, as everyone was, by that horrible tragedy,” Greenblatt says of Newton and how the network is responding. “It’s always in our mind,” he says. He says that the “best tonic” is to watch an episode of “Parenthood.” “We’re conscious of the amount of violence and the amount of edge in our shows,” Greenblatt says, noting that there are more parameters on broadcast than on cable. Salke says that NBC has so few shows with violence on their schedule that they can look at the occasionally violent episodes strategically.

10:13 a.m. Diversity in casting question. “We talk about diversity all the time. You see three white faces up here, but I guarantee that right behind us is one of the most diverse groups of executives at any network,” Greenblatt says. They talk with their creators about making shows diverse. “I think we have as good a track record as anybody,” Greenblatt says, patting himself on the back. “I think we’ve noticed some evolution in the development process,” Salke says. Show creators have changed. Salke says that three of the four department heads in her department are “diverse.” Are there any targets NBC still hopes to hit? “I think we really would love to have a diverse family show,” Salke says, adding the network has some “good prospects.”

10:16 a.m. Will Jimmy Kimmel’s move to 11:35 have any impact on them? “I don’t think it’d be wise to prognosticate on the ratings,” Telegdy says, though he expects some impact. He praises Leno for being “resilient.”  Greenblatt raves at Leno’s “legacy” and notes that Jay and Jimmy Fallon have already been beating Kimmel head-to-head. He also predicts that some viewers will be freed up by ABC moving “Nightline.” Does NBC have a succession plan for after Leno’s departure? No. They just extended Jay. “We’re thrilled to have the one-two punch of both of them,” Greenblatt says, even mentioning Carson Daly.

10:18 a.m. Are there concerns about “Revolution” going off the air and maintaining audience when it returns? “It it uniformly terrible or uniformly terrible for terrible shows?” Greenblatt asks of the track record for serialized shows taking long hiatuses and returning. “It’s a little bit more of a cable model,” Greenblatt says of the audience’s ability to return to shows after a long break. “I actually think that’s the better long-term play,” Greenblatt says, while Salke says that keeping the lead-in is the best strategy for helping “Revolution.”

10:20 a.m. “We like to think of every season of ‘The Voice’ as very distinctive,” Telegdy says of doubling up. “The format has some unique elements of it that make it extremely compelling for viewers, but also extremely compelling for the coaches involved,” he adds, praising the most recent cycle, plus the addition of Usher and Shakira. “Frankly, yes, we would like a star to emanate from the show,” he admits, suggesting that Cassadee Pope could be the show’s big breakout. “Hopefully we will come to the conclusion that doing two cycles per year is the way to go, but we haven’t really written that in stone yet,” Greenblatt says, mentioning that “The Biggest Loser” just took a cycle off to reinvigorate that show.

10:23 a.m.  Greenblatt says the job he was given was to increase the number of people watching shows either live or in monetizable time periods. So that’s still what he’s hoping to do. He’s jealous about the cable model, which makes it easier to track the number of viewers across a given week, rather than just a premiere. In case you’ve forgotten, Greenblatt came from Showtime. Different rules. Blah blah blah. “We’ve give the audience all these tools. It’s our fault. We’ve invented all of these platforms,” Greenblatt says. Most of their days, though, are still spent figuring out how to get people to come to the network the first time they show things. He praises Sunday Night Football, obviously, as something people watch live. “We’re evolving show content to feel like it embraces and rewards live viewing,” Telegdy notes.

10:27 a.m. What’s up with “Hannibal”? When would it air if not this season and what is its tone? Greenblatt says it *could* be a summer show, comparing it to the great cable shows that air in the summer. “It’s very unique,” Salke says, praising Bryan Fuller’s imagination and style. “It’s like a procedural you’ve never seen before. There’s a lot of big fans of it,” Salke says.

10:28 a.m. Back to Real World violence and the amount of serial killer shows on TV. “I did a serial killer show on Showtime,” Greenblatt reminds us. “I’m not sure you can make a leap from ‘A show about serial killers has caused the violence in our society,'” Greenblatt says, noting mental illness and guns are problems, too. “‘Criminal Minds’ is worse than ‘Dexter’ ever was,” Greenblatt reminds us, but he doesn’t want to make a cause-and-effect argument. “There’s a lot of violence around the show, but you don’t see a lot of acts of violence,” Greenblatt says of “Hannibal.” Salke liked the pilot for “The Following,” in case you’re curious. “It’s not like a shoot-em-up kind of show,” Salke adds of “Hannibal,” which she says is “not gratuitous in the way you might be thinking.” Greenblatt would rather we also blame movies and video games. “We’re not out there saying ‘Can we get some more serial killer shows?'” Salke says.

10:31 a.m. A questioner asks about Donald Trump’s behavior in the most recent election and whether Trump could possibly go too far. “We live in this country where you can say anything you want as long as you’re not harming other people. He’s got a political belief system. We talk to him all the time, but I really don’t think that what he’s doing in his personal life is going to corrupt what’s happening on the show,” Greenblatt says. But he warns that if Trump becomes “hurtful” or crosses a line, they’d respond. “It comes with the Donald Trump territory,” Greenblatt says. “Yes, he keeps a lot of publicists very, very busy, but so far we’re fine with what transpired,” Telegdy says.

10:33 a.m. Finally the first “Up All Night” question. What is the point of all of the parts on this car? “There’s a lot of thought that went into all of that and conversation with all of the talent involved,” Salke says. She notes that the people involved felt there were still stories to be told. “We started looking at the show and thinking what was the best format for it,” she says, claiming the actors were itching to perform in front of a live audience. “We’re all really excited about what they’re talking about,” she says.

10:35 a.m. Thoughts on “Smash”? “We’re very excited about the second season,” Greenblatt claims, though he admits to some concern about the lack of “Voice” lead-in. “The show for us was an unqualified success for us in the first season,” Gleenblatt maintains, despite all of the changes the network made to the show. “I can’t qualify unqualified success,” Greenblatt says of “Smash.”

10:37 a.m. Telegdy says that it seems that “The Voice” has a discrete audience that isn’t impacted by “Idol”/”X Factor.” Telegdy is also baffled by the “Dancing with the Stars” decision to go to all-stars, but says that there isn’t the same problem with “Celebrity Apprentice.”

10:39 a.m. “The show has arguably had a lot of time period changes,” Greenblatt says of moving “Rock Center” from Thursday. The network believes in it on Friday.

10:39 a.m. Where does NBC stand on “broad” comedy after “Animal Practice” failed? “I guess it all comes down to semantics and it was a word that everybody grabbed onto as being controversial,” Greenblatt says, claiming that really NBC just wants a BIGGER audience, comparing it to the smaller audiences for NBC’s Thursday. His new buzz-word is “inclusive.” “You try things and they fail,” Greenblatt admits, saying that “Animal Practice” tested well and people inside the company loved it. “One day you’ll all have this job and you’ll see what I mean,” Greenblatt says of people at NBC not intending to make a bad show. He says “Go On” and “New Normal” are shows that appear to grow the audience. “You get a sense of something that explores themes more people can relate to,” Salke says. 

10:43 a.m. It’s not that common for a network show to have a minority female in the lead, but “Deception” does. Is there a business reason for doing this and is there an audience that will want this? NBC insisted that there would be a “diverse” woman in the lead role, played by Meagan Good. “She’s so exciting to us. It gives the show a fresh feeling,” Salke says. She describes the African-American and Latino audiences as “huge and loyal.” “We didn’t do it because we had some sort of financial mandate to tap into an untapped audience,” Greenblatt says. “Shame on us if we put together a show with eight or nine regulars and they’re all white,” he adds. 

That’s it for the executive session. Sepinwall is gonna follow-up on some of the shows that went unmentioned here…

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