Reporting from Jerusalem

NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt took a trip around the dial of his previous posts, and his current one, this morning at the Innovative TV conference that’s organized here by Israel’s Keshet Media Group. The former Fox and Showtime exec was praised for the success of NBC’s hot freshman The Blacklist, and noted that the network “used to be one of the most innovative, acclaimed networks in America. We’re trying to bring that back.” In September, Greenblatt’s NBC contract was renewed through 2017, a vote of confidence for the exec just days before the start of the new broadcast season. He tossed kudos to NBC parent Comcast today, quipping that NBC “used to be owned by GE, a company that made airplane parts.”

But moving from cable to broadcast came with its own set of trials, he said, after a series of clips was played from Six Feet Under, the HBO show he exec produced, and Dexter, Showtime’s recently ended serial killer hit. “We’re in the process of trying to figure out what is the next stage of broadcast TV. We compete with cable every day. Network shows have kind of gotten safe and predictable and a little old-fashioned… We have to be provocative and do things to surprise people.” NBC “is a great network” thanks to its history with shows like Seinfeld, ER, Friends, St Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues, which were “innovative. But, there’s certain things we can’t do,” Greenblatt said before adding, “I don’t look at is as handcuffs; those limitations can ultimately be a good thing.”

Greenblatt called James Spader series The Blacklist a “hybrid” of the kind of serialized shows that work on cable and the closed-ended franchises that are more familiar to network TV. It “could be the next wave,” he suggested. “NBC had to make noise… We were number four… If you’re not provocative you’re going to be passed over these days.” In a nod to some of NBC’s woes (there’s been a lack of breakout comedies for the second straight season), Greenblatt commented, “Unfortunately, yes, we read the critics. I think in cable TV, critics are important because they raise the profile of a show. But in broadcast TV, the critics are just savage to us.”

Talk also turned to M.I.C.E., the show that NBC set as a put pilot in September 2012 with Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey’s Film 44 and which is based on Keshet’s The Gordin Cell format. Keshet CEO Avi Nir, who ran the chat with Greenblatt, noted that the first trial “wasn’t so good” and a mutual decision was made to go in a different direction, he said without elaborating.