Pilots’ new course

Development units divided in Peacock reorg

HOLLYWOOD — NBC has revamped the way its development execs develop pilots, splitting its comedy and drama departments into two separate teams.

Also, as part of the restructuring, longtime NBC programming exec Chris Conti has departed the net and signed a two-year pact with sib NBC Universal TV Studios to become a producer.

Under the new system, Peacock will separate projects developed at its inhouse NBC U TV unit from ones brought to the network by outside studios.

Starting this summer — after pilot season and the May upfronts conclude — one comedy and one drama team will focus on the NBC U fare, while the other comedy and other drama team will handle external projects.

On the comedy side, Cheryl Dolins, the net’s senior VP of comedy, is expected to lead the laffer team devoted to NBC U product. Jane Greenstein, who’s now director of comedy development at Fox, will join NBC in July as VP, leading the comedy team overseeing outside projects.

Meanwhile, Tollin-Robbins senior VP Chris Castallo heads to NBC in June to take on the job of drama development VP, handling outside drama projects. Michael Thorn, veep of drama development at the net, will focus on inhouse dramas.

NBC also plans to launch a New York development office, where an exec yet to be named will meet with Gotham talent.

All five execs and their teams will report to Ghen Maynard, exec VP of series development at the net.

By creating two comedy and drama teams, NBC Entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly hopes to lessen the number of network suits assigned to any one project, and avoid spreading his execs too thin.

“In any given project, an army of execs are involved — that’s not particularly healthy for creativity,” Reilly said. “We wanted to allow a structure where there’s less projects on an executive’s plate, and less executives in the mix on any particular project.”

Reilly also hopes his expanded development structure will enable NBC to cast a wider net for talent.

“Under the traditional system, you have a head of comedy and a head of drama, and if a writer with an idea is not high on the department head’s list, you’re not going to get in the network,” he said. “Now there are several different ways to find your way in. We’re hoping to create a little more of a free-market system within the network.”

Year-round development

Reilly also wants to get serious about implementing more year-round development, and believes the new setup will give his execs more time to work outside the traditional pilot cycle.

NBC took a development team approach in the mid-’90s, but the system was eventually dropped because the units frequently wound up competing against each other for talent and pickups.

Reilly said he wasn’t concerned about similar internal clashes this time out, noting that back then, there was no obvious delineation between teams.

“This is just a much cleaner structure,” he said.

In the case of co-productions, Reilly said projects will land with a team depending on whether they originated inhouse or at another studio.

As for Conti, exec plans to develop comedy and drama series for the Peacock-owned studio. Deal was announced by NUTS co-prexys Angela Bromstad and David Kissinger.

“Chris has been one of the key architects of NBC’s success in the drama field for many years,” Kissinger said.

‘Jury’ foreman

Conti most recently served as senior VP of drama development, overseeing the launch of new skeins “Medium” and “Law & Order: Trial by Jury.”

He’d held his current post since June 2000; Conti had also been VP of drama development and director of primetime series. Exec’s other credits include developing “Third Watch” and “Crossing Jordan.”

Conti first joined the Peacock as a page in 1990.

Greenstein’s credits at Fox include helping develop “Arrested Development” and “The Simple Life.”

Castallo, who began at Touchstone before rising through the ranks at Tollin/Robbins, developed skeins including “One Tree Hill” and “Smallville.”

He’s developing the pilot “Inconceivable” for the Peacock via Tollin/Robbins and Touchstone.

Also joining NBC is Terence Carter, who will serve as director of comedy development and report to Greenstein. He moves over from Tonic Films.

Justin Levy will now serve as manager of drama development under Castallo, while Gina Girolamo continues as VP of comedy, working with Dolins.

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