Comcast merger delay holds up other decisions
Apparently no one briefed the Justice Department about the Television Critics Assn.’s winter press tour.With the Comcast-NBC Universal merger still awaiting final approval, the Peacock is in a holding pattern. For NBC Entertainment staffers who expected to return from the holidays to an all-new administration led by Bob Greenblatt, that’s made this week a little unusual. While some decisions may have to wait in the short term, NBC’s press relations team — putting the finishing touches on its press tour day, Jan. 13 — doesn’t have that luxury. It’s particularly unclear at the moment who will answer reporters’ questions during NBC’s executive session. If no deal is done, whoever winds up on stage — including NBC Entertainment-Universal Media Studios primetime entertainment prexy Angela Bromstad — will face the awkward challenge of having to deflect questions about the network’s programming strategy post-merger. With no certainty on a closing date for the merger, NBC is mulling its options right now. Since NBC U TV topper Jeff Gaspin is about to depart, the Peacock won’t put him up there; and it might not be fair to send Bromstad on stage with so much uncertainty. Outright canceling the session is a possibility as well, although TV critics may protest the lack of any Q&A time with a top programmer. Meanwhile, even if the NBC U-Comcast deal were to suddenly get approved, NBC wouldn’t have much time to rethink its day at the tour. That’s because, as the deal isn’t yet final, NBC’s PR team doesn’t have the ability to work with incoming NBC Entertainment chairman Greenblatt for an exec session. Should the deal become official before Jan. 13, that could rep the best scenario for NBC. Former Showtime entertainment topper Greenblatt has generated much goodwill with TV crix over the years that critics will likely be willing to accept Greenblatt’s insistence that he’s too new to have any real answers for them. It’s a strategy that played off well last summer for ABC. After Steve McPherson abruptly ankled ABC Entertainment just days before press tour, Alphabet’s PR team debated whether to put new topper Paul Lee on the dais. The journos pushed ABC to still schedule a Lee session. Even though Lee had nothing yet to say, the exec managed to win over the room. But NBC insiders don’t expect the merger to close by press tour time, which is why they’re now debating their executive session Plan B.