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Peacock in Flight: NBC's Angela Bromstad and Paul Telegdy Face the Press

As expected the tension was palpable at this morning's executive session for NBC at Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Pasadena.

On hand representing the Peacock were Angela Bromstad, President of Primetime Entertainment, NBC and Universal Media Studios and Paul Telegdy, Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming and Production, NBC and Universal Media Studios. There was no sign of outbound co-chairman Ben Silverman or his successor Jeff Gaspin, who reporters really wanted to talk to this morning.

So it was no surprise that there was a certain braying for blood in the tone of the questions, which ranged from forceful queries to determine just what NBC's current brand was to questions about programming decisions involving such series as Chuck, Medium, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, Kings, and others.

After screening a new montage-style promo for the network, which features scenes from The Office (Jim proposing to Pam in the rain) to 30 Rock (Jennifer Aniston trying to get Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy in a threesome), the slightly od tagline of "These are the moments and this is where it belongs" filled the screen before Bromstad and Telegdy took the stage.

Not such good news for Chuck fans, though it's not really bad news either. Bromstad said that, despite comments made by showrunner/co-creator Josh Schwartz at Comic-Con last week, Bromstad said right now Chuck is not coming back until March, when it will launc with thirteen episodes.

"The great thing with Chuck is that they are on a great track creatively," said Bromstad. "It is something we can move around."

And they might. But not right now, anyway.

As for Medium, which moves to CBS this fall, Bromstad said it was a tough call that came down to the wire. "We had to make some really difficult decisions," she said. "Medium was a show we debated picking up until the very end."

Season Two of drama series Southland will focus more on on Regina King and Ben McKenzie's characters and them solving crimes week-to-week rather than on the sprawling ensemble cast. "We've made some creative adjustments [on Southland]," said Bromstad. "I think they tried to do too much in those six episodes..."

Bromstad said that audiences shouldn't expect to see more than one season of midseason sci-fi drama Day One, though if it does well in the ratings it could return. Still, "it's more of an event," said Bromstad.

As for audience and critical favorite Friday Night Lights, Bromstad was dismissive of the series and the ratings it had achieved, which weren't enough to earn it a spot on the fall sked. "We think Friday Night Lights is a sensational show, it is on brand, but it doesn't have the ratings to justify it on the fall schedule," said Bromstad.

A Kings question was particularly pointed and Bromstad struggled to explain NBC's decision to shift the series to Saturdays and then cancel it outright. "I think that it was an amazingly big swing and a great production..." but it was too narrow, said Bromstad. She said that Kings was too "highbrow and complicated" to sell in a 30-second spot and that programming needs to be more relatable and mainstream.

Telegdy revealed that The Biggest Loser will shift from a two-hour format to a 90-minute one in midseason.

As for how NBC needs to adapt in the future, Bromstad and Telegdy kept things rather vague. "It's naive to think we can keep doing business like we always have when cable is taking such a big chunk out of our business," said Bromstad. "We've just allowed shows to get way too expensive... We need to find a way to bring those costs down." She also pointed out that their cable siblings have a slightly different way of doing business, one that's closed to them. "Broadcast has a different business model," she explained. "We're not a dual revenue model like cable is."

The duo revealed that NBC's development budget hasn't been cut, even wwith losing the 10 pm hour to Jay Leno and having Sunday Night Football on. "We're still committed to putting on quality drama and comedy," said Bromstad.

But football at least provides a springboard from which NBC can promote new series. "Thank god we have Sunday Night Football," said Bromstad when asked about challenges facing a fourth place network launching new series. "That's a huge platform for us."

"Because of Baldwin's feature schedule, we decided to launch Community behind The Office, which leaves us a slot at 8 pm," explained Bromstad about the decision to order six half-hour installments of Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday for the fall.

"We made that announcement completely in sync with Maura and her people," said Bromstad defending NBC's handling of Maura Tierney's illness and the bumping of drama series Parenthood to midseason. Asked whether or not they could have pushed the series back without revealing the nature of the delay, Bromstad said simply: "No."

Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked the duo to explain just what the NBC brand is today.

"We refer to certain key determining characteristics of NBC shows," said Telegdy, who then stammered out a list of said characteristics including "real people." Um, okay.

"I think Heroes is on brand, Office, 30 Rock, SVU... those live up to the legacy of what NBC has always stood for," continued Bromstad. "We have fallen short in past few years... It's our goal to bring back those high quality sophisticated dramas and comedies" that were once hallmark of NBC."

Still, the duo have high hopes for the Jay Leno Show at 10 pm weeknights. But that doesn't mean that they aren't strategizing alternative plans should ratings fail to materialize.

"We're always looking at contingency plans for everything," said Bromstad. "Based on numbers we see, this will be long term commitment for us."

Still, Bromstad won't "declare a specific rating" threshold for Jay Leno Show to be a success in their eyes.

"We are going to declare victory wherever we have them," said Bromstad deflecting a comment made buy rival CBS' Nina Tassler two days ago. "It is a marathon... it's not going to be determined in the first five days." As for Conan, "The true test will come this fall," said Bromstad.

Still, Bromstad said the network isn't worry about losing the 10 pm timeslot or its programming fitting in during earlier hours. "Our shows work at both 9 pm and 8 pm that we have scheduled... it really hasn't been an issue with what we've developed," she said. "We're not really playing in dangerous standards territory."

"Research does show that people do want more comedy," said Bromstad about NBC's development decisions going forward. But she was rather candid about how such genre series as Heroes and Day One perform on the network. "By the nature of the genre, they always tend to get a little narrow and [we'll have to look] whether we can sustain that on air."

Bromstad says that Heroes is doing great creatively, even after Bryan Fuller's departure from the series. For the second time. Fuller's deal with NBC is strictly development. Bromstad said that he came back to make sure that Heroes got back on track. And apparently, it's back on track.

Asked how NBC has performed this summer, Bromstad said candidly, "Merlin has actually done OK. Philanthropist has done OK. But we need to do better."

"Those were shows that were actually acquired during the strike and held back for summer," she explained. "We're looking at summer options." Those options going forward will include netting programming "through acquisition, through international co-production, or lower cost originated programming."

And throughout the entire executive session, the unseen spectre of Ben Silverman hovered just out of sight. "The great thing about Ben is that he's so positive and he's been so supportive of me," said Bromstad. "He's very invested in our fall shows & the Leno launch."

Asked to explain the motivations behind Silverman's departure from NBC, Bromstad clearly was toeing the company line. "I think this has always been Ben's plan," she said. "It has always been Ben's plan to transition back to entrepreneurial roots."

Comments

Ally said…
Whatevs.

Why'd they even bother. They said NOTHING.
Mrs. James Ford said…
Seriously. What a waste of time.
HipHopAnonymous said…
Well, I for one am happy to see NBC moving away from shows that are too "highbrow and complicated" (Kings) or 'sensational' (FNL). What I really want is 'relatable' programming about people trying to lose weight, yelling at suitcases, and looking for validation of their 'talent' from David Hasselhoff. The important thing is that it's all 'on brand' and mainstream.

Wait... I think I've just been Zucker'd!
Jon88 said…
"We've made some creative adjustments on 'Southland'." We've removed everything about it that made it interesting, she did not go on to add.
RRM said…
They both come across as idiots. Like they can't allow a single honest word out of their mouths. Just corporate-speak. It's no wonder NBC is in last place.
Anonymous said…
I like how she described "Day One." It sounds like they are now canceling shows before they even air them. That's a great way to build ratings. What a bunch of morons!

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