NBC News is consolidating its longform units, including newsmagazine “Dateline,” into a division called Peacock Prods. that aims to expand into reality and nonfiction entertainment.
The unit, formed from NBC News Prods. and NBC Media Prods., as well as “Dateline” staff, will serve as an inhouse production company for everything from new episodes of “Dateline’s” “To Catch a Predator” franchise to reality shows like A&E’s “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”
NBC’s news division sees nonfiction programming, reality skeins and even live events, produced largely for cable, as a growth area naturally suited to the storytelling skills of “Dateline” producers.
Internally, NBC News prexy Steve Capus, who adds the title of president of Peacock Prods., is telling staff to think of the division as NBC “news and information,” reflecting its new emphasis.
“There have been times in the past where the news category was viewed too narrowly,” Capus said. “This is expanding the definition of what a news division has to offer.”
Peacock Prods. will apply NBC News’ journalistic standards when clients ask for them. Or, in the case of Sci Fi Channel’s “Quest for Atlantis,” produced by NBC News Prods. and hosted by “Today” correspondent Natalie Morales, news standards aren’t necessarily applied.
“I think that is totally fine and a great use of our talented producers,” Capus said. “To me, what this represents is a natural extension of what this news division is now and what it will be in the future.”
The new unit will be overseen by “Dateline” exec producers David Corvo, who adds the title of exec VP of Peacock Prods. His top deputy, Sharon Scott, becomes senior VP of the unit.
The reorg enshrines what has been an evolution at “Dateline,” which has long taken the most flexible approach to the newsmag format. Its most successful series, “To Catch a Predator,” blends “gotcha” journalism and reality TV in the sense that “Dateline” plays an active role in luring would-be predators before the cameras.
The “Dateline” timeslot itself will be used in the future to test reality and nonfiction concepts. Peacock Prods. will air a pilot for “Busted,” about an all-female private detective agency that specializes in catching cheating husbands, in a “Dateline” timeslot in August. Depending on how it performs, it could land on NBC’s primetime sked next summer or on cable.
The unit is working on a pilot for another potential series starring security expert “Wild” Bill Stanton, which may also debut in a “Dateline” berth.
NBC News’ longform divisions and “Dateline” were hit hard by cost-cutting undertaken last year as part of NBC Universal’s “NBC 2.0” downsizing initiative. “Dateline” airs about 100 episodes a season, down from more than 300 in the mid-1990s. But it has also added production responsibility for the two hours of taped programming MSNBC airs each night.
Corvo said the change reflects increasing popularity of nonfiction programming while the traditional newsmagazine wanes.
He said he expects the unit to add full-time producers and editors, as well as freelancers, to take on the additional work.
“This is about following the viewers — and not just network primetime,” he said.
NBC News execs said the broader focus will allow them to keep the biggest possible staff of producers employed under the NBC News umbrella. All three units, as well as the digital unit, NBC Next Media, will be located together after renovations at 30 Rock.
Scott said the consolidation of units creates “one of the biggest programming suppliers to broadcast, cable and internet outlets, domestically and internationally.”
Among the non-news shows produced by the unit are MSNBC’s “Models New York,” A&E’s “Secret Life of Vampires” and Bravo’s “Sexiest Moments in Film.”
The unit will continue to produce “Tom Brokaw Reports” for NBC, as well as Brokaw’s cable docs, such as ESPN’s update on his 1973 documentary “The Long Winter for Hank Aaron.”
NBC’s stations tapped Peacock Prods. to help relaunch “iVillage Live,” a struggling daytime skein that airs at noon or 11a.m. on 12 NBC affiliates.