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NBC sked a test of the West

Peacock makes procedural shifts

The fall lineup that NBC will unveil today is the result of a radically revamped scheduling process — an overhaul blessed by GE chairman-CEO Jeffrey Immelt.

For the first time in recent memory, Peacock’s Burbank brass — led by entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly — conducted pilot screenings and early sked meetings without the presence of East Coast execs, including NBC U topper Jeff Zucker and sales chief Keith Turner.

Zucker, Turner and other Gotham execs still weighed in, but only after Reilly and his team had outlined their preferred plan of attack last week.

Streamlined process was designed to give Reilly a chance to put his own stamp on the net’s schedule — and, it seems safe to assume, eliminate any questions of accountability if the sked tanks.

A person familiar with the revamp said Immelt instigated the changes because the old process left it unclear who was responsible for the performance of the Peacock’s primetime sked.

Others inside NBC, however, flatly dispute that timeline. Changes were spurred by Zucker and NBC scheduling chief Mitch Metcalf, they said, with Immelt then giving his OK to the shakeup.

Whatever the timing, the changes address long-simmering issues related to the fact that the Peacock is the only net with a clear geographical divide among top execs.

ABC moved most of its corporate execs to Burbank in 2000, while Fox has never had a real power base in Gotham (save, of course, for network owner Rupert Murdoch). At CBS, the only voice that matters is CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, who splits his time between Gotham and L.A.

At NBC, key sales and corporate execs work out of Gotham’s 30 Rock. Entertainment and promotion operate out of Burbank.

In previous years, NBC’s Gothamites would fly to Burbank for pilot screenings and schedule powwows. Brass from both coasts would hash out potential pickups and sked scenarios, huddling for days until a collective decision had been reached.

Process often led to drawn-out fights and battles between factions within the company. What’s more, by the time a schedule was decided upon, it could be difficult to figure out who should claim ownership for it.

This year, Reilly, Metcalf and other key program and promotion execs held screenings and schedule talks the week of May 1. Last week, they flew to Gotham and presented a sked to Immelt, Bob Wright and Zucker.

Zucker and other NBC execs then gave their take on how the sked should take shape. NBC is keeping a tight lid on details of its sked, so it’s hard to say just how much the final lineup varies from what Reilly and Metcalf presented to the East Coast execs.

The coming season will be crucial for Reilly. NBC heads into the fall still firmly situated in fourth place, but there’s a sense the net has turned a corner thanks to the success of skeins such as “The Office,” “My Name Is Earl” and “Deal or No Deal.”

Based upon the pilots greenlit to series, it’s also clear that Reilly is firmly in control of the NBC development process. Skeins such as “Friday Night Lights” and “Heroes” reflect Reilly’s taste for edgier fare that might feel at home on a cable network.

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