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NBC's press strategy: duck and run

August 5, 2009 |  4:56 pm

Being at NBC's executive session at the TV press tour today reminded me of a classic episode of "M*A*S*H" in which Hawkeye and Trapper crash a press conference and start badgering a general about the lack of medical equipment in their unit. The general barks: "This is a press conference. The last thing I want to do is answer a lot of questions!"

BROMSTAD That seemed to be the approach that NBC Prime Time Entertainment President Angela Bromstad and Paul Telegdy, executive vice president for alternative programming, decided to go with before taking the stage in Pasadena this morning to face a daunting audience of TV critics and bloggers.

Asked early on about what sort of numbers Jay Leno would have to get in his new 10 p.m. slot for the network to call it a success, Bromstad said, "We have a session later on with Jay Leno and I think that would be a better question for that session."

Uh, bad move. If the entertainment head of a network doesn't want to answer a question about the network's biggest gamble, the reporters -- fairly or not -- are going to smell blood in the water. The non-response set the stage for more snark from the press.

Another reporter asked if Bromstad was going to be on the Jay Leno panel; when she said no, which was like lobbing a pitch right over the center of the plate. The reporter wondered if it wasn't "important to hear from the network president what they consider a success." Bromstad then said the obligatory line about the Leno move being a marathon rather than something that would be determined in the first week.

Later, during more grilling about Leno, Bromstad told a reporter that a particular question about how the network has been spinning ratings would be better suited for late-night chief Rick Ludwin. The reporter replied, "We're sorry we keep asking questions that apparently we're asking to the wrong people."

Though no one was expecting NBC brass to give out the rating they feel the new Jay Leno show needs to hit to be an economic success, one would think they would've been better prepped on how to answer the question.

Might we suggest in the future using this non-answer: "There are a lot of factors that will determine Jay Leno's success, and ratings are just one part of it. This is a sprint, not a marathon, and at the end of the day we're confident that Jay Leno in prime time will deliver viewers to our network and big dollars to our bottom line."

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Angela Bromstad. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times