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NBC's Greenblatt may look to cable production model for drama programming

January 6, 2012 | 12:12 pm

NBC programming chief Bob GreenblattNBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, whose previous job was overseeing programming for the pay channel Showtime, thinks it may be time to bring some cable strategy to broadcast television.

Speaking at the Television Critics Assn. Press Tour, a twice-yearly event where TV networks promote their programs to the media, Greenblatt said he was reconsidering the broadcast tradition of 22 episode orders for shows, primarily dramas.

"I don’t know if every show benefits from 22 episodes stretched across nine months," Greenblatt said. Some, he added, could "benefit from compacted schedules."

Most cable networks take that approach. Instead of ordering 22 or 24 episodes, which is a typical season for a broadcast network show, cable channels tend to order 13 and run them consecutively without weeks off for reruns.

Of course, cable networks also air far fewer original series than broadcast networks. If Greenblatt were to go forward with the idea of making fewer episodes of certain series, he would need to ultimately order more series to keep the calendar full.

Another appeal of the cable approach, Greenblatt says, is the popularity of drama shows on streaming services such as Netflix. Serialized dramas are a hard sell in the traditional rerun market because the ratings are not as strong as they are for procedural shows such as "CSI" and "Law & Order." But Netflix has been spending lots of money to get rights to dramas for its service. It bought rights to AMC's "Mad Men" for about $800,000 per episode.

"We know that’s how people download shows and stream them and watch them in chunks," Greenblatt said.


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-- Joe Flint

Photo: Robert Greeblatt. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times