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TCA press tour: NBC rates the ratings higher

January 15, 2009 |  4:51 pm

Six months after NBC declared that it’s not in the business of ratings, the network has decided that those pesky audience measurements do matter.

NBC President of Entertainment Angela Bromstad and Paul Telegdy, executive vice president of alternative programming, only 10 days into their new jobs, faced the TV press today at the Universal Hilton. Bromstad and Telegy were appointed to their new positions last month when NBC and its production studio merged to become one entity.

Although NBC Universal Co-Chairman Ben Silverman has proclaimed that his network is more concerned with profit margins than ratings — which is reflected in his decision to give the 10 p.m. nightly slot to Jay Leno — Bromstad said that quality of programming and ratings are her priorities.

“It’s very plain and simple,” she said. “You have to have a long-term strategy and stick to that. There has been a miscommunication, and it’s largely our fault in not communicating it well.  I’m new in the job, but I’m not new to NBC. We are constantly being challenged by the people that we work for to come up with different ways of doing things, what’s going to work, different business models, all of that. But at the same time, programmers know that it’s the quality of the show.

“We live in a world where we have to have both — we have to have the quality and we have to have the ratings. We absolutely have to strive for that,” she added later.

To that end, NBC intends to have a busy spring, premiering new dramas “Kings” on March 15 and “Southland” on April 9, along with an untitled comedy starring Amy Poehler on April 9.  A new reality series, “The Chopping Block,” will launch March 11. Another drama, “The Philanthropist,” will premiere before the season is over.

Bromstad said the idea is to launch the series at a time when the 10 p.m. slot is available for scripted programming so that they can establish their audiences. But all of these new shows will compete with the rest of NBC’s schedule, and 10 pilots are under development for spots on the schedule in the fall. NBC has picked up “The Office,” “30 Rock” and “The Biggest Loser” for next season.

“We want everybody to know that we’re very much in the scripted business, and we want to use the time slots we have now to launch things that can come back in the fall,” Bromstad said.

The new programming chief was referring to claims by competitors and even some of NBC’s talent that the network’s decision to give Jay Leno a nightly show at 10 has angered the creative community because of the loss of jobs it means. The financially motivated decision to eradicate scripted fare at 10 p.m. could mean fewer jobs for actors, writers, producers and crew members.

But Bromstad disputed saying that NBC will execute a time-slot sharing plan in which shows will air for a few weeks and then go off the air temporarily so that others can have their turn. Before she took over the position, Bromstad said she met with Hollywood agents and show runners to explain the new strategy.

“Although the competitors may be spinning this in a negative way, people involved in making the shows, people pitching the shows, selling the shows, it’s not part of the conversation,” she said.


— Maria Elena Fernandez

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