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While rival networks plan for fall, NBC awaits marching orders

January 14, 2011 |  2:15 pm

It's that time of year when the broadcast networks start the long process of making new television shows for the fall TV season. Scripts are ordered. Actors, directors and producers are signed. Soon pilots will start shooting. Each day, the industry buzzes with what is in development at the networks and whose projects look good and whose don't.


This is always an anxious time in the TV business, but for NBC it is particularly excruciating. NBC Universal is in the process of being acquired by Comcast Corp., and until the deal closes there is a lot of uncertainty at the network on how best to proceed this development season. That was evident Thursday when the network paraded some of its mid-season shows before the nation's TV critics at the semi-annual Television Critics Assn. Press Tour but did not hold any news conferences with executives to discuss strategy.

Some key executives, including NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and NBC Universal TV head Jeff Gaspin, have indicated they are leaving after Comcast takes over. There will probably be other shake-ups throughout the company as well.

Comcast has said that Bob Greenblatt, most recently the head of entertainment for pay channel Showtime, will serve as entertainment chief for the network. Greenblatt is no doubt aware of what's in the pipeline, but he can't make decisions on his staff or what shows he wants until the deal is closed. As for the current team at NBC Universal, it seems likely that Greenblatt will make changes there as well.

That being the case, one can see that agents and producers might be wary of pitching NBC right now. After all, if the executive you're meeting with might not be there in a few months, why bother?

While NBC Universal awaits its new leadership, other networks are kicking into gear. Comcast is hopeful the deal gets closed by the end of the month. If it drags on into February, it would mean that Greenblatt would not have much time to shape a fall schedule. 

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Bob Greenblatt. Credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times