"We had a really bad fall," the new NBC programming chief said Friday to open the peacock network's sessions at the Television Critics Assn. press tour in Pasadena. "It was worse than what I had hoped for."
For seven years now, NBC has been slipping further and further in the ratings, a painful reminder that the once preeminent TV network had not yet reached the bottom of its catastrophic descent. Last season was particularly bad as the network limped through the waning days of former NBCUniversal chief Jeff Zucker's regime, but this season has proved to be even worse.
NBC's ratings are down 11% in the advertisers' favorite category of viewers ages 18 to 49, compared with last season. Much of their slate, including "The Playboy Club" and "Free Agents," opened with a whimper, leading to early cancellations. Overall, NBC remains in fourth place in the network prime-time standings, attracting 7.4 million viewers a night. In contrast, network leader CBS pulls in more than 12 million viewers in prime-time.
Later this month marks the first anniversary of the takeover of NBCUniversal by Philadelphia cable giant Comcast Corp. Comcast executives have repeatedly said that reviving the ailing broadcast network is NBCUniversal's priority, and they brought in Greenblatt to do just that.
The pleasant and polite Midwesterner and former TV and Broadway producer became a star as the programming chief of premium cable channel Showtime. While there, he launched a string of hits that explored deeply flawed characters, including "Dexter," "Weeds" and "Californication."
Now Greenblatt is focused on the flaws in NBC's schedule. He was refreshingly candid Friday about NBC's considerable challenges: Veteran shows have been losing steam, and it has been six years since NBC launched a bona fide hit.