Financial considerations force rethink of project

NBC is putting the kibosh on its ambitious eight-hour 9/11 miniseries from scribe Graham Yost and Imagine Television.

Decision comes late in the game: Scripts for the project had been completed and pre-production had begun. Indeed, barely a month ago, Peacock execs made a big deal of the mini at their presentation to advertisers, touting the involvement of exec producers Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and David Nevins.

But according to industry insiders familiar with the net’s decision, financial considerations — as well as competitive pressure from a rival 9/11 project at ABC — caused NBC to rethink its project, which was to have been a co-production between Imagine and NBC Universal Television Studio.

NBC and Imagine both declined comment.

ABC’s project, which has never been officially announced by the net, is said to be still on track. Marc Platt (“Legally Blonde”) is exec producing, and several thesps — including Harvey Keitel — have been approached about the project, though no major deals are yet locked.

As for the NBC project, mounting an eight-hour miniseries at any broadcast net is an expensive and risky proposition, which is why broadcasters tend to limit their multipart pics to four hours these days. The “9/11″ undertaking likely would have cost NBC at least $20 million, given the auspices behind it and some of the A-level talent said to be interested.

The fact that ABC was competing for talent and looking to get its Platt-produced mini on the air at the same time added another element of risk into the equation.

Upfront deflation

What’s more, it may not be a coincidence thatNBC execs halted the 9/11 project just weeks after it became clear the Peacock would lose up to $1 billion in the upfront market vs. its 2004 take.

Industry insiders said NBC might have been loath to spend so much coin on a project that could end up being the second 9/11 mini into the marketplace. Rushing the project to beat ABC might have been even more disastrous; thus, in the end, halting the project emerged as the best option.

As it is, NBC’s investment in the project has been relatively modest. Net will have to pay for Yost’s scripts and possibly some consultancy fees.

Yost has been disappointed by NBC before, with network chief Jeff Zucker killing Yost’s “Boomtown” early in the show’s second season, despite critical acclaim for the skein’s frosh season.

Decision to table the Imagine “9/11″ miniseries couldn’t have been easy for Zucker or entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly. Peacock had done all it could to get out in front of the project, even rushing out an announcement of the project last fall before Imagine had come on board (Daily Variety, Oct. 28) — amid speculation that ABC was readying its own 9/11 mini.

Net then quickly lined up top producers and consultants, including the New York Times and former ABC News correspondent Peter Lance.

NBC still owns the scripts and the rights to the project, which was to have been based on the official 9/11 Commission report. As a result, the net could decide to revive the mini, though that seems unlikely any time soon.

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