NBC swallows its toon ‘Pride’

Peacock puts hold on pricey lion skein

NBC has temporarily silenced its lion’s roar, shelving DreamWorks Animation’s ultrapricey “Father of the Pride” for the November sweeps.

Move isn’t the same as a flat-out cancellation, and NBC execs insist the $2 million per-episode “Pride” — personally championed by NBC U Television Group topper Jeff Zucker as a cure to network TV’s sitcom blues — hasn’t been killed. They also say “Pride” will be back come December with its six remaining unaired episodes.

Still, it’s never a good sign when a net pulls a frosh show in advance of the first sweeps period of the season. And NBC last month stated frosh actioner “Hawaii” was simply going on hiatus and would continue in production — then two days later announced it had changed its mind and was canceling “Hawaii” after all.

Despite a huge promo push during NBC’s Olympics coverage, “Pride,” which will end up costing NBC more than $25 million, has failed to generate anywhere close to the same audience enthusiasm as such out-of-the box hits as ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost.”

Skein bowed to solid numbers but has trailed downward most weeks since. Most recent episode scored a weak 2.8/7 among adults 18-49, even with its best-yet lead-in from “The Biggest Loser” — leading to speculation that “Pride” was history (Daily Variety, Oct. 28).

NBC weeks ago ordered nine additional scripts, but with a minimum nine-month lead time needed to produce new episodes, it’s been clear for some time that “Pride” would be off the air for the rest of this season after its initial burst of 13 segs. Peacock execs have stayed mum on the matter, perhaps not wanting to make any noise about the show as DreamWorks Animation was launching its IPO.

DreamWorks won’t lose a dime if “Pride” lives or dies, however. Unusual deal for the show has NBC paying all the upfront costs surrounding the skein — around $2 million an episode for 13 episodes, as well as extra coin for the backup scripts.

That’s one reason NBC might not be willing to be patient with “Pride,” which until last week had been chugging along with decent though hardly spectacular numbers.

If “Pride” dies, NBC will have just three established comedies in its lineup: Vets “Scrubs” and “Will & Grace” and frosh “Joey.” By comparison, ABC has eight, while CBS and Fox will air six laffers during sweeps.

“Pride” is preempted tonight for NBC News election coverage. It will then be replaced by three “supersized” editions of NBC’s just-launched reality skein “The Biggest Loser,” which will run from 8-9:30 p.m. on Nov. 9, 16 and 23 and from 9-10 p.m. on Nov. 30.

“Loser’s” ratings soared in the 9 p.m. hour when NBC aired a 90-minute premiere episode of the skein.

In other NBC scheduling news, Peacock is expected to air new drama “LAX” just twice in its new Wednesday slot during the sweeps. If the skein bombs again this Wednesday, it’s possible the show could be pulled completely.