Peacock pumps up new primetime unit

Sharp named VP, to head alternative department

They’re rocking to an alternative beat at NBC.

The Peacock network will announce plans today to launch an alternative series department that will focus on primetime fare such as reality shows, gamers and special events.

Curt Sharp has been tapped to head the new department. Sharp, who starts immediately as vice president of alternative programs, reports directly to NBC Entertainment prexy Garth Ancier.

Alternative programming isn’t new at NBC, which currently airs the gamer “Twenty One.” Previously, development of most nontraditional series fell under Rick Ludwin, senior veep of specials, primetime series and latenight at NBC Entertainment.

Ludwin will continue to oversee latenight as well as some traditional specials, including the Golden Globes. Sharp will pick up oversight of “Twenty One” and immediately start developing projects for fall. NBC hadn’t yet ordered any alternative pilots for next season, so Sharp won’t be inheriting any existing development.

Thanks to the monster ABC hit “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “alternative” programming — basically anything that doesn’t fall under the traditional comedy or drama categories — has come onto the radar at the networks.

“It’s obviously becoming much more a part of the TV landscape,” Ancier said.

NBC becomes the latest network to devote an entire unit to alternative. ABC and Fox already maintain alternative departments, although their oversight varies. Fox’s Mike Darnell, exec VP of specials and alternative programming, is responsible for all animation, sketch and reality-based series as well as all entertainment specials.

While his department is best known for specials like “When Animals Attack,” the development of series such as “Titus” and “Family Guy” also fell under his domain.

ABC’s Andrea Wong, vice president of alternative series and specials, has a slightly smaller plate. But her department oversees “Millionaire,” the network’s crown jewel.

The NBC announcement leaves CBS as the only major web without a department specifically devoted to alternative skeins. Still, the Eye has a huge crop of nontraditional series in the works, including this summer’s “Survivor” and “Big Brother.”

Eye’s different way

Alternative series fall under the oversight of a variety of execs at CBS. “Survivor,” for example, has been executed with the net’s drama development department and Gagn Maynard. “Big Brother” and the gamers “What’s My Line” and “$64,000 Question” have been placed under Jack Sussman, vice president of specials.

Alternative development has also sped up at weblets WB and UPN, both of which have a number of possible projects for fall.

Sharp comes to NBC from Digital Entertainment Network, which he helped launch in May 1999 as VP of development. At DEN he developed, produced and acquired interactive and streaming video.

Before that he served as director of original programming at Disney Channel, where he oversaw series such as “Bug Juice” and “Going Wild With Jeff Corwin.”

Sharp also spent time in casting at MTV, where he was also the executive in charge of production for “Singled Out” and “Loveline.” He began his career working with Fox’s reality programming.

“We look forward to having him bring his innovative thinking to NBC,” Ancier said. “Curt’s Internet background is going to be a tremendous asset for us as we move forward in taking NBC to the next level.”

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