Listen to (and share) episode 13 of Deadline’s audio podcast Global Showbiz Watch With Nancy Tartaglione. Deadline’s international editor talks from Jerusalem with host David Bloom about Israeli powerhouse Keshet’s big Innovative TV conference and what Bob Greenblatt had to say about the future of NBC; Slow TV hits the fast lane in Norway and maybe beyond; and a look ahead at this week’s American Film Market and what seems like Asia Week in Los Angeles, as both the Chinese and Thai governments sponsor a variety of events to build business relationships with Hollywood entertainment companies.
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.”
Global Showbiz Briefs: Bear Grylls Explores ‘The Island Of Lost Blokes’ With Channel 4; BAC Films Distribution Acquired; More
Bear Grylls, Channel 4 Explore ‘The Island Of Lost Blokes’
Bear Grylls is teaming up with the UK’s Channel 4 for documentary series The Island Of Lost Blokes. The show sends 12 male volunteers to a remote deserted island for four weeks and leaves them with a limited supply of food and water. Once they run out, the men will have to work to survive. The series asks the question: Without the luxuries of 21st century living, can modern man cut it? Grylls calls it “Lord Of The Flies meets Bear Grylls meets Darwin’s survival of the fittest.” Shine TV is producing with Bear Grylls Ventures.
This is a major vote of confidence for the top NBC executive just days before the start of the new broadcast season and more than a year before Bob Greenblatt‘s current contract was to expire. The news will silence speculation about the future of Greenblatt as the network’s ratings turnaround is still work in progress. Greenblatt is very well liked by NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke and Comcast brass and has been enjoying unwavering support even when things were not going so well for NBC in early 2013. While contract renewals not always spell a long tenure (as NBC’s dismissal of Kevin Reilly shortly after signing a new 3-year deal showed), the contract extension for Greenblatt is a clear indication that Comcast is sticking to its word that it sees NBC as a long-term investment and will be patient, trusting Greenblatt and his team to turn the ship around. It also assures stability on the TV side of NBCUniversal on the heels of the shakeup at Universal Pictures last week.
NBC’s Bob Greenblatt Declares “Flat Is The New Up” In TV Ratings, Laments The Lack Of Respect For Broadcast Shows: TCA
At NBC‘s executive session, entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt touted the network’s performance this past season, which he called “The year of improvement.” It was up-and-down season for the network which, after a dominant fall, took a ratings dive in the first quarter before rebounding somewhat in the spring to finish No.3 among adults 18-49 (but closer to the leaders than last year). “Season to date, we are the only network that is flat,” Greenblatt said. “At this point in our business, flat is the new up.”
Greenblatt, who headed Showtime before moving to NBC in 2011, took an issue with a comment about the Emmy drought for broadcast drama series and the notion that quality scripted programming can only be found on cable these days. “If I was putting on one show a year, it would be the best show you can do; we have 85 million people working on that one show,” he said, noting the big disparity in output between the broadcast and cable networks. “Those [critically praised cable] shows on our platforms with those numbers would be canceled,” Greenblatt said. “Broadcast now is the bastard child…. I wish we get more respect for the work that we do.”
On another subject, Greenblatt confirmed that Fashion Star has been cancelled and won’t return for a third season. NBC has not made a decision yet on ordering another cycle of Celebrity Apprentice but is looking into casting. NBC’s alternative chief Paul Telegdy stressed that the decision will be made strictly ”based on our considerations if it still rates… [Donald Trump's] opinions are not reflective of anyone sitting on this panel.”
Nothing like having Hollywood pals, huh? Out of work MTV scripted boss David Janollari crashed and burned last fall. Now he’s been saved from the witness protection program thanks to a 3-year, first-look deal at Universal TV overseen by his former producing partner Bob Greenblatt. From 1996 to 2003, they did Six Feet Under, Elvis, …
NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt jumped right into the late-night controversy during the network’s upfront presentation this morning in NY, announcing a change in the network’s late-night plans as he took the stage at Radio City Music Hall. “I will be stepping down in 2014 to take over The Tonight Show, and Jay Leno will be taking my job”, he said. The presentation opened with a video featuring Parks And Recreation stars Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. “Hi, I’m Shakira,” Poehler said, shelling out advice on what show Middle America likes. “There is no bigger show on TV than The Voice“, she said. Deadpanned Offerman, “I prefer a show called The Silence where you have a black screen and no sound”. Poehler also touted the success of Revolution, a show about people living in the wilderness with no electricity or power. “I’d watch it, provided it’s not a show and is called Camping“.
Related: NBC’s 2013-14 Schedule
Greenblatt acknowledged NBC’s ratings woes this past season. “It’s been a roller-coaster season”, Greenblatt said. “We made progress”, he added, noting the network’s finish as No. 1 in the fall for the first time in nine years. But then, “we had challenges in the first quarter and our share of midseason disappointments” before “bouncing back in April”.
The NBC boss also said that once again there will be two cycles of The Voice, with the fall one launching on September 23, the opening night of the season. Cycle 2 will start immediately following the Winter Olympics.
The first applause of the day came for Greenblatt’s announcement that Community is coming back for 13 episodes. The second one? For Michael J Fox, whose new series will air on Thursdays. It was the first new NBC show introduced by Greenblatt before he handed things off to NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke.
Related: NBC’s New Show Trailers
Bob Greenblatt Touts NBC Ratings Success, Declares “We Don’t Have Our Heads Up Our Asses”, Talks Violence & Late Night: TCA
NBC topper Bob Greenblatt had a message for his Fox counterpart Kevin Reilly who, in a moment of unfiltered honesty during a recent HRTS luncheon said about network executives, “A lot of us have our head up our asses.” From his perch of leading the No.1 network in adults 18-49 this fall, Greenblatt declared, “That may be true at the other places but I can guarantee you we don’t have our heads up our asses.”
The barb came during Greenblatt’s opening remarks at TCA where NBC’s ratings turnaround was front and center. “What a difference a year makes,” Greenblatt said upon taking the stage this morning. “Last year I came out and said we had a really shitty fall. Well, I’m not saying that now.” He went on to “bore you with statistics (about NBC’s improbable fall reign) because I’m not sure when I’m going to have a chance to do it again.” The network is facing rough sledding in the first quarter without The Voice and Revolution, and Greenblatt was cautious about his expectations for the ratings performance in the next three months while also touting NBC’s “very robust midseason plan.”
We told you first last month that Showtime SVP Programming Pearlena Igbokwe may reunite with her former Showtime boss Bob Greenblatt at NBC. Igbokwe left the pay cable network after 20 years in June after her contract was up. She replaces Laura Lancaster, who is becoming a consultant. Here’s NBC’s release:
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – July 9, 2012 – Veteran program executive Pearlena Igbokwe has been named Executive Vice President, Drama Development for NBC Entertainment, it was announced today by Jennifer Salke, President of NBC Entertainment, to whom Igbokwe will report. She is replacing Laura Lancaster who will segue into a consultancy role to help with the transition through drama development season.
In her new role Igbokwe will oversee the development of all NBC dramas.
“Pearlena has forged an impressive track record over her successful career that has earned her the admiration of the creative community,” said Salke. “She will bring a unique perspective to development that will help us reach our goal of once again making NBC the home of some of the best and most respected dramas on television.”
Igbokwe comes to NBC from Showtime, where she worked closely with Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, for seven years.
Out of the Hilton Hotel ballroom and back into Radio City Music Hall, NBC is presenting its first schedule developed by chairman Bob Greenblatt and his team. It features four nights of comedy and a total of 10 half-hour series. The programming part of the presentation opened with a video featuring former SNL Weekend Update co-anchors Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey “previewing” NBC’s lineup for next fall via DVDs sent to them by Greenblatt, who Fallon thought was “the Asian judge on The Voice.” The preview featured the casts of such NBC series as Law & Order: SVU, The Office, Grimm, and 30 Rock doing musical versions of their shows. The highlight: Meet The Press anchor David Gregory belting out a tune surrounded by a group of showgirls.
Related: NBC First Look Teasers: 2012-13 New Shows
The presentation kicked off with a performance by Smash stars Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty and the emergence onstage of the four Voice spinning chairs. One by one, they turned around to reveal Voice stars Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine sitting in the first three and Greenblatt in the last.
Known for his love for Broadway, Greenblatt, for whom Smash has been a passion project, felt right in his element on the Radio City Music Hall stage. But he was quick to note that “despite speculation, I’m not hijacking the network and turning everything into a musical.”
Greenblatt presented the network’s new shows in tandem with NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke or, as Greenblatt referred to it, “the next Channel 4 team.”
NBC’s once high-flying reboot of Fear Factor will make a humble exit as a regular series tonight with a rerun replacing an episode pulled by the network amidst controversy. The episode, Hee Haw! Hee Haw!, would’ve probably made it to air had it not been for NBC hosting a GOP presidential debate. The Fear Factor episode, originally slated for January 23, was pre-empted for the debate and moved to January 30. Then last Thursday, January 26, TMZ posted a story about a stunt in the episode described in the NBC synopsis as one where “the teams put themselves to the test eating the unimaginable.” According to TMZ, the unimaginable was donkey semen and urine. Controversy ensued, and late Friday night, NBC sent out a scheduling advisory listing another episode, which originally aired January 2, as replacing Hee Haw! NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt today addressed the controversy with a statement: “I reviewed the episode late last week and decided it was a segment we should not air.”
There was no elephant in the room during NBC’s executive session at TCA’s winter press tour today because chairman Bob Greenblatt shot it down right away. “We had a really bad fall, worse than I’d hoped for but about as I expected,” was Greenblatt’s first line onstage. “People say the only way to go is up which I believe is true, but there is a long way to get there.” The new NBC chairman made no bones about the network’s poor ratings performance this season, including from NBC’s new shows, which he blamed on a lack of strong lead-ins, an aging returning lineup and major cast changes on flagship series Law & Order: SVU and The Office. But “the good news is that we have new owners willing to invest not only with financial resources but with patience,” Greenblatt said, referring to Comcast and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke.
Greenblatt, who came from pay cable network Showtime, attributed the demise of some of NBC’s new shows to the challenges of the the broadcast model, noting that canceled Prime Suspect would’ve been renewed at Showtime after three episodes and would’ve probably run on the cable network for 4-5 seasons. Greenblatt started several sentences with “The beauty of cable”, playing up pay cable’s advantage with a smaller volume of shows that allows all of them to get a significant marketing push and cut through the clutter as well as the different cable economics that allow quality shows to run for years despite low ratings. Greenblatt said that in his first season at NBC he delivered “four times as many good shows as I ever delivered at Showtime” in one year, listing such series as Prime Suspect, Whitney, Up All Night, Grimm and the upcoming Awake and Smash. But he was quick to note that he is not sure if “these shows are enough to turn NBC around. I hope they’re the beginning of new foundation to move us in the right direction.”
Prime Suspect‘s failure to click with viewers “was probably the biggest disappointment,” Greenblatt said. “Was it too cable, was (Maria Bello’s character) too abrasive? Maybe I should say it was the hat and move on.” In the final analysis, it seems like “the audience wanted to be entertained with comedy and fairytales” this fall, “and there wasn’t appetite in the country for a hard-hitting cop show.” Greenblatt was more blunt about NBC’s other canceled new fall drama, The Playboy Club. “Playboy was just a rejected concept,” he said. “We thought going into the period would interest people, but I don’t think people were that fascinated by that milieu and place.” As for the high-profile midseason entry Smash, Greenblatt tried to downplay expectations. “I don’t think it’s a make-or-break show, but it’s a really good potentially long-term asset for us.”
Greenblatt also dispelled any notion that Community has been effectively canceled when the network pulled the cult favorite from its midseason schedule.
EXCLUSIVE: NBC is China-bound. The network has bought a cop drama project set in Shanghai from writers Cyrus Voris and Ethan Reiff. The project is about a pair of fugitive recovery agents working in China’s (and the world’s) largest city, population 23 million. It stems from a blind script deal Voris and Reiff had at NBC and will be produced by Universal TV. Voris and Reiff had been thinking about doing a cop show set in China for a while, and separately new NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke had been looking to do a show set in the Asian country for some time, originally as top development executive at 20th TV. UPDATED: Voris and Reiff have an extensive background and knowledge of China working on Chinese-themed projects, including co-writing the story for DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda, which was set in old China. The new project reunites UTA-repped Voris and Reiff with NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt. The two co-created and executive produced the Showtime drama Sleeper Cell, which ran for two seasons while Greenblatt was at the helm of the pay cable network.