Bigwigs on lunch menu

Prexies talk truth at Hollywood Radio & TV Society event

There’s nothing more schizophrenic in TV than the network presidency, NBC Entertainment topper Kevin Reilly told an aud of industry execs Tuesday.

“Some days it couldn’t suck more,” admitted Reilly, as all six entertainment prexies colleagues stepped on stage for the Hollywood Radio & TV Society’s annual network toppers lunch.

“In the morning someone calls you a genius, and in the afternoon you’re fending off rumors that you’ve been fired,” he said.

Reilly, who’s so far weathered the storm at NBC — even nurturing the new hit “My Name Is Earl” — went on to quip, “Anyone want mine?” after ABC’s Steve McPherson noted that the entertainment presidency was still one of the premiere executive jobs in the biz.

Moderator Dennis Miller, meanwhile, got the biggest laughs of the afternoon by poking fun at Reilly’s arrival just as NBC dropped in the ratings.

Miller compared it to an action scene, with NBC in a “300-foot free fall… (Jeff Zucker) gets up, they do the jump cut, and you have to go in,” Miller said. “(Zucker’s) a genius.”

Laughs aside, Reilly noted that he took the gig because he relished the opportunity to “take some chances” and turn things around at NBC.

“There’s still a lot of equity in the Peacock,” he said. “Most genre-defining shows were on NBC. That’s where we slipped … but that can be recaptured.”

Meanwhile, all six execs said they were keeping a watchful eye on emerging technologies, including Apple’s recent video iPod, and how their businesses might be impacted.

“These things are selling ridiculously,” said WB Entertainment prexy David Janollari. “We’re all talking about it.”

Added CBS Entertainment topper Nina Tassler: “The train has left the station. We’re just trying to figure out which station to get on.”

Fox’s Peter Liguori said he wasn’t as concerned as others, believing viewers will still watch the nets as long as they offer compelling product.

“Past history has proven that these aren’t replacements,” Liguori said. “The pie is expanding. Create great programming, and let the distribution services fight it out.”

To that end, the execs said the secret is simple: Let writers and producers create their passion projects, and keep out of the way.

“There’s nothing more terrifying than a showrunner who listens to what you say,” said ABC’s Steve McPherson.

As for talk that reality TV is on the decline, the network prexies scoffed. The unscripted genre may suffer more peaks and valleys just as its comedy and drama brethren do, but it’s here to stay, they said.

“The strong franchises are still working for us all,” said UPN Entertainment prexy Dawn Ostroff.

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