TV topper looks ahead after Leno-O'Brien kerfuffle

LAS VEGAS — Jeff Gaspin’s crisis-management media tour continued at the NATPE confab Tuesday. In a wide-ranging Q&A, the NBC Universal TV Entertainment topper admitted that NBC U erred in failing to invest as much in programming for NBC as it did for cablers USA Network, Bravo, Syfy and others.

The push to beef up “the investment in USA and Bravo came at some extent at the cost of investment in NBC,” he said in the 45-minute sesh moderated by Broadcasting and Cable editor Ben Grossman. “We probably took a little too much out of the broadcast business.”

Now, in the wake of “The Jay Leno Show’s” demise, the net is going full steam ahead with a slate of 20 pilots, most from high-profile (read: expensive) auspices. Gaspin admitted that NBC is now in the process of rebuilding many key relationships in the creative community after the turmoil of the Leno decision and other moves. “You want the (creative) community to want you to succeed,” he said.

Gaspin said he hopes the two weeks of Winter Olympics coverage beginning Feb. 12 will be a “cleansing moment” for the Peacock that will allow the network to move past being the butt of jokes for the messy Leno-Conan O’Brien shuffle.

Over the long term, Gaspin said he’s confident NBC’s image will improve and that Leno’s appeal has not been tarnished beyond repair.

“Over the next several months and the balance of the year, the audience (for ”The Tonight Show”) will start to come back. People will realize that what Jay did so well for 16 years he’s still doing well,” he said.

NBC’s only problem with viewers is the paucity of successful shows.

“In the end, the audience wants hit shows,” Gaspin said. “What has hurt us is not having enough hits on the air.”

Gaspin said he has reasonable goals for the Peacock’s development team to deliver at least one successful new series in the fall.

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