Andrew Wallenstein


NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt pledged to put the network on the road to a comeback at its upfront presentation recently at Manhattan's Hilton Hotel. Though "Celebrity Apprentice" star Donald Trump arguably upstaged the whole event by declaring he wouldn't seek the presidency, the message from the Peacock is that it wants to fly again.

Greenblatt and NBC Broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert repeatedly harkened back to NBC's storied past including invoking the "must-see TV" tagline -- but also sought to distance itself from more recent network history.

"There is no mandate to manage for margins," said Greenblatt, echoing a message former NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker delivered a few years ago emphasizing cost containment in primetime. Harbert took it a step further by downplaying the importance of new media and stressing the focus on the "back-breaking blocking and tackling" that goes into producing TV hits. "A little less reinvention of the wheel, and a lot more broadcast 101," said Harbert. "The big screen is still the best place to watch video."

Greenblatt listed priorities for the new season including growing NBC's comedies, strengthening its Thursday lineup, keeping the momentum of "The Voice" and restoring some luster to the 10 p.m. time period. Said Greenblatt, "Much has been said about the demise of broadcast TV, but we just don't buy it. We know some of that has slipped away but the road to recovery starts today."

The first pilot Greenblatt introduced was "The Playboy Club," which he sought to play down any advertiser concerns that the show would be too racy. "It's honestly quite tame compared with what you might see on 'Jersey Shore,' " he joked. Greenblatt is also looking to infuse new blood to many shows returning to the schedule, with a new judge coming to "The Sing-Off," a new trainer set for "The Biggest Loser" and young new associates to join Kathy Bates' firm on "Harry's Law." "Parenthood" will likely be scheduled in a way that will minimize repeats. "I want to grow that show even more," said Greenblatt.

NBC is also putting a lot of weight on "The Voice," which Greenblatt said NBC research chief Alan Wurtzel categorized as a "gift from God." "I love it how the research people get religious around scheduling time," he said. Marianne Gambelli, president of NBC ad sales, spoke of the new energy the network is feeling now that Comcast is in place as its parent company. "Our company is only four months old, and already we're seeing positive change," she said.

Comcast was also invoked by NBC late-night host Jimmy Fallon, who whipped out a guitar to sing "Have a Comcastic Day," complete with the refrain "Just throw your cash at these fantastic shows and everything will be all right." Other NBC talent who made cameos included Seth Meyers from "Saturday Night Live," NBC News anchor Brian Williams, and show-closing performances from "Voice" coaches Cee Lo Green and Christina Aguilera.








TV - NBC: Back to Broadcast 101