When NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt tapped Jennifer Nicholson Salke to be the network’s entertainment president in July, it wasn’t exactly surprising. Rumors had been swirling about the former Twentieth Television development exec VP making a move for more than eight months, partly because of her reputation — she developed ABC’s “Modern Family” and Fox’s “Glee” — and partly because of a friendship with Greenblatt that dates back to her decade at Spelling Entertainment.
Salke’s development savvy is already evident in NBC’s schedule, with “The Playboy Club” bowing this month and “Awake” debuting midseason. She will also see two other shows she developed at Twentieth — “Terra Nova” and the much-anticipated “New Girl” — debut on Fox, while Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” will begin on FX.
“There are certain shows that are emerging as the ones I think have the real shot,” she says, “but it’s proving to have nothing to do with whether I developed them or not.”
So far this season, she says “Whitney” and “Up All Night” are firing on all cylinders. She also says she’d like to find a way to broaden the audience for Thursday night’s slow-growers, “Parks and Recreation” and “Community.”
However, Salke recognizes she doesn’t have the luxury of favoring any single program unless it’s connecting with the audience, considering NBC ended last season in fourth place in overall viewers. In fact, she says her sole directive has been to find one or two truly breakout shows this season.
“I have to go for stuff that I love and just hope that we get lucky on one or two,” Salke says. “We’re very realistic and humble about how hard that is.”
Title: Entertainment President, NBC
Role model: “Peter Chernin inspired me to embrace risk and be innovative or go home. Dana Walden and Gary Newman inspired me to follow my instincts, be decisive and always speak my mind.”
Career mantra: “The shows that make you lean in and inspire creative conversation are the ones to bet on.”
Leisure pursuits: Traveling to ski and hike in Park City, Utah, with her family allows her a little distance from Hollywood. “I always come back so rested and ready to roll Monday morning.”
Philanthropic passions: Operation Smile and Girls Inc.