With Comcast merger waiting formal OK net's in transition
NBC execs continue to play the waiting game.The Peacock held its portion of the TV Critics Assn. press tour Thursday, but with one notable difference: With the NBC Universal/Comcast merger still awaiting the final sign off from the feds, the network opted to skip a formal exec session with journos. Top NBC execs were nonetheless in attendance, including outgoing NBC U TV honcho Jeff Gaspin and NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios programming prexy Angela Bromstad. Bromstad is expected to remain a part of new NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt’s team, at least in the near term, once the merger is finalized. But Gaspin, who has been coming to work and operating as NBC U TV chieftain, will officially leave the company the day the deal is done. (As will NBC U CEO Jeff Zucker, who was not in attendance at the Pasadena press tour.) NBC execs weren’t interested in speaking on the record, given the uncertainty of the situation (and the fact that they’ll all have a new boss in a few days). But they remain optimistic that the Comcast merger will be finalized at the end of this month. Otherwise, that could push the approval into February, complicating what has already become an unusual pilot season for the Peacock. If, as expected, the deal is approved within the next week or two, it will take several more days of implementation to get the new company in line. The newly combined NBC U/Comcast would then be ready to go live on Jan. 28 — the end of the company’s next pay period. Greenblatt has been meeting his top lieutenants, and recently even held a meeting with his future staff. But both he and NBC have been very careful to avoid any obvious jumping the gun — as Greenblatt cannot technically make any decisions on behalf of the new company. That makes the timing particularly rough for Bromstad, who will have to go about ordering drama pilots this month without Greenblatt’s direct involvement. (Bromstad is a longtime friend of Greenblatt’s however, and has a sense for her future boss’ tastes.) Peacock has already given a pilot order to “Playboy,” a 1960s-era series from 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine TV. And the network has budgeted the same amount of pilots as it picked up last year — around 10 dramas and 12 comedies. It’s still unclear whether NBC will actually pick up that many pilots, especially given the executive transition. Peacock execs are still receiving scripts and won’t have a firm idea on counts until later in the month. Ideally, Bromstad and company will be able to at least greenlight comedy pilots under Greenblatt’s command, as most of those projects will be picked up in early February. All that uncertainty aside — and despite the lack of an exec session — NBC staffers pointed out that this January’s press tour was a breeze compared to last year. That was when the Peacock’s day fell smack right in the middle of the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno late night debacle – and Gaspin had to answer some very tough questions. This time around, Gaspin took the opportunity to say goodbye to talent and even the press, and leave the Peacock with a slightly better press tour experience. NBC’s TCA day ended with critically acclaimed sitcom “Community”; creator and exec producer Dan Harmon even took a moment to praise the beleaguered network. “I’ve never worked for a more creatively deferential network than NBC,” Harmon said. “They’re dedicated to quality. They don’t know that’s a horrible strategy for ratings.”
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