NBC Entertainment chair Bob Greenblatt touted the network’s ratings performance at the network’s Television Critics Association summer press tour presentation, pointing to the network’s three-year run at #1 in 52-week seasons in 18-49.
“NBC had defied a lot of the gloom and doom downward trends we’ve been seeing in network TV,” he said, adding that the network is up 17% over the past six years. “Without being impolitic, our three broadcast competitors are down double digits. Fox has unfortunately lost 43 percent of its audience.”
Still, he defended network TV: “Broadcast network television is still a powerful way to bring a mass audience together,” he said.
Among other issues he touched on during his executive session:
On rebuilding Thursday night comedy around “Superstore”:
Greenblatt, who was joined on stage by entertainment president Jennifer Salke, singled out “Superstore,” which is moving from Mondays to Thursday, for praise.
“The thing we learn about comedy every season is it’s a very hard genre to launch, we’re trying to be very careful and very strategic about it,” said Greenblatt, who pointed to research that showed the America Ferrera comedy has been sampled widely.
Salke added that the show fit into the NBC brand, along with the upcoming Mike Schur comedy “The Good Place.” “You should still go for the sophisticated smart great creators’ point of view,” she said. “You might not please everyone, but do something really excellent that works for a large group of people and doesn’t end up in the middle. We’re back in our sweet spot.”
On Dick Wolf’s expanding “Chicago” empire:
Greenblatt acknowledged that Wolf may have reached his limit at four spinoffs, but wouldn’t rule out yet another expansion of the “Chicago” universe. “Every time I think Dick Wolf has finished what he’s started, he comes up with another idea,” he said. “Conventional wisdom would probably say if you get one spinoff you’re probably in the 99th percentile of success, but to have three, I think we’re gilding the lily to go beyond that… but I’ll never count Dick Wolf out.”
Salke added that her focus will be on shoring up the franchise, launching the new true crime Menendez Brothers miniseries — and then look to New York for another crime franchise down the line.
On rebooting “The Voice”:
This fall, “The Voice” will debut with new coaches Alicia Keys and Miley Cyrus, and Greenblatt is optimistic that they will draw younger viewers to the reality hit. But Blake Shelton and Adam Levine will remain constants. “They love doing the show and they love the paycheck,” he said. “If I can compare it to a scripted show, you have your series regulars that you love… and then we have this revolving family. We think the heart of it is those two guys and their relationship.”
On TV’s responsibility for creating Donald Trump:
Pressed by a reporter on whether TV was responsible for launching the candidate into pop culture, Greenblatt said, “Isn’t it TV’s job to create celebrity?” He pointed to “Bedtime for Bonzo,” which helped Ronald Reagan become a national figure.
As for “The Apprentice,” said Greenblatt. “We were happy to have a show that was doing really well, with a guy who was a big TV star. It’s impossible to predict where it goes from there. I think it surprised all of us that he would want to do this, but I guess that’s what’s great about this country.”
On the network’s OTT plans:
Greenblatt said NBC has been having discussions about an over-the-top service like CBS All Access and Watch ABC, but any announcement is still a few months away. “I’m not ready to talk about anything definitive, but hopefully in the next couple months we’ll have something to talk about,” he said.
“We’re in a unique position because our sister company is a cable company,” he said, which poses competitive challenges. “Whatever we do in that space, we want to do something that is not an affront to the cable business or distributors. So we’re trying to craft something that is a good thing for them as well.” In the meantime, he said, they’re trying “toe in the water” approaches.
On competing for talent in a competitive marketplace:
Salke acknowledged that the market has gotten ever more competitive, vying for producers. But she argued that the network’s success and reach has them well-positioned to draw the best to their platform. “There are still people who love network television and are believers, and have affection for networks and NBC,” she said, adding that they “have to be talent-friendly and aggressively pursue projects.” Salke pointed to deals signed recently with Gideon Raff (“Homeland”), Warren Leight (“SVU”) and Amy Poehler. “I believe in the network and it’s easy to talk about it with passion,” she said.