August 5, 2009
Struggling NBC Looks to Quality Shows, Cost Control
Filed at 3:45 p.m. ET
PASADENA, California (Reuters) - Executives at struggling NBC said on Wednesday they were focused on top-quality scripted programs and better cost control to lift the network out of its current bottom place among the leading four U.S. TV networks.
Defining NBC as the broadcaster which airs shows that are human, deal with real people, and are fundamentally positive, executives pointed to Emmy-award comedy "30 Rock," "The Office" and drama "Heroes" as the way forward for the network.
"We have a strong foundation and some of the best shows on television and I think we have to build on that," Angela Bromstad, president of primetime entertainment, told TV critics gathered here for an annual showcase of upcoming programs.
"I think we have fallen short in the past couple of years and it is our goal to bring back those high quality sophisticated dramas and comedies and a brand of alternative programing," she said.
Bromstad said the departure last month of NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman after two years at the network was not unexpected and would not bring many changes because NBC was already moving in the right direction.
"It has always been Ben's plan to transition back to his entrepreneurial roots," she said.
Silverman brought shows like "The Office" to NBC but struggled to develop major primetime audience hits that would lift it out of its last place in the TV ratings behind CBS Corp's CBS, News Corp's Fox, and Walt Disney's ABC. NBC is owned by partnership of General Electric Co and Vivendi.
Silverman also oversaw the upcoming move of late night talk show host Jay Leno to primetime five nights a week in what was seen as a bid to cut costs of expensive scripted dramas that dominate the 10 pm hour when Leno's new program will air.
"We have just allowed shows to get way too expensive and it has gotten out of control. I think we have to find a way to bring those costs down," Bromstad said.
However, she said there had been no cost-cutting in the network's development budget which fuels new programing.
Bromstad declined to define a viewership target for the new Leno show, which will premiere in September, saying the success of the move would be measured in months rather than days.
NBC's new shows for the new 2009-10 season that begins in September include two medical dramas and a comedy based around a community college starring Joel McHale, host of the satirical pop culture news show "The Soup" on the E! cable network.
The network's most-anticipated new family drama, "Parenthood," was shifted to the spring season after its star Maura Tierney took time off because of breast cancer.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Richard Chang)