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“Jay Leno is Going Out On Top, And We Think That’s The Right Thing To Do” And Other Great Lines from HRTS Lunch

Once upon a time, the entire TV industry took the afternoon off to attend the Hollywood Radio and TV Society season-kickoff lunch and watch their bosses admit which competitor’s show they most wished they had on their schedule and answer other similarly adorable questions. It was a simpler time. These days, the mood onstage is much darker. One exec makes some all-flesh-is-as-grass observation about the state of the industry; another agrees there is a resemblance. And then, there’s the traffic. In case you missed it, here are the quotes to note from today’s lunch:

*Good time to be a comedy producer: “There are 168 dramas in production. Anybody who knows how to run a [drama] show is employed. There isn’t anybody left in development. … It’s fully cooked.” — FX Networks CEO John Landgraf

*Netflix: “I didn’t know there was an option for not reporting ratings.” — HBO programming president Michael Lombardo

*Why NBC is dumping Jay Leno: “Jay is going out on top, and we think that’s the right thing to do.” — NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert

*Anti-hero dramas are so over: “A show can’t just rest on an anti-hero premise anymore. … A pitch that’s ‘this guy is the most fucked-up guy’ is not good enough.” — Lombardo

*Kevin Spacey should shove a sock in it: “[House Of Cards] had a star and a director and scripts for the first two episodes, and they had a show that they were basing it on. … I understand why artists don’t want to audition with a plot…[but, unless you're "House of Cards," minus a pilot] good shows could be prevented from being great shows — Lombardo Read More »

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Ted Harbert Becomes Paul Telegdy’s New NY Late-Night Gofer: How Embarrassing!

NBCU considered this “such a minor move” that it didn’t even think it was worth announcing. Wow, what a diss of NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert, who has been in the Witness Protection Program ever since Comcast bought NBCUniversal. And when the pint-sized putz isn’t hiding from angry O&Os and affiliates and advertisers fed up with yet another lousy network primetime season, he’s screaming at reporters who didn’t share his belief that Animal Practice would be a homerun this season. (Media 1, Ted 0.) In actuality the only impetus for handing Harbert an infinitesimal new late night role is the multimillion-dollar remodeling of the 30 Rock studio that will house The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon when it moves to New York. Harbert is NYC-based and in charge of NBC’s buildings, so he was tapped. (Was Kenneth Parcell too busy?) Let me emphasize there is no change in the late-night reporting structure, still overseen by Paul Telegdy, president of alternative programming and late night and who reports to NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt. (Meanwhile, Greenblatt and Harbert hate each other.) With Telegdy focused on NBC’s top-rated series The Voice, which tapes in LA, he has little time for frequent bicoastal trips. So the underemployed Harbert is Telegdy’s new gofer on 3 NYC shows now: The Tonight Show, Late Show and Saturday Night Live. Harbert in the late night realm is best known for when he was E! Entertainment chief Read More »

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NBC Exec Calls Dish Network’s DVR Ad Blaster An “Insult” To TV Ecosystem

By | Monday May 14, 2012 @ 8:37am PDT

NBC Broadcast Chairman Ted Harbert opened his company’s upfront presentation taking a swipe at Dish Network, Nielsen, and even — very gently — advertisers themselves. He told the Radio City Music Hall audience that Dish Network’s new Auto Hop DVR feature, which enables viewers to automatically jump over ads in recorded shows, is “an insult to our joint programming, and I’m against it.” Many analysts have wondered whether broadcasters will ask the courts to rule that the feature violates their copyrights. Harbert also told advertisers that Nielsen needs to iron out the kinks in its ability to count viewers who watch TV via broadband, including on iPads and other tablets. “You want these answers and for the amount of money you’re spending, you deserve them.” The exec added that advertisers should evaluate NBC’s schedule year-round, not just the in 39 weeks from September through May. About 60% of the network’s summer shows are original, so it “isn’t just repeats anymore.” Noting that cable channels are evaluated year round he says, “let’s talk about it.” He also wants to change the way audience size is calculated. He’d like to include people who watch a show as much as seven days after it first airs, up from the current standard of three days. Harbert says that NBC is investing $15B on sports including the Olympics, we well as millions on local TV newscasts, and more on first run shows. “If we’re going … Read More »

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Frances Manfredi Promoted To President Of NBCU Cable & New Media Distribution

By | Wednesday October 19, 2011 @ 7:13am PDT

(New York, NY) October 19, 2011 – Frances Manfredi has been promoted to President of NBCUniversal Cable and New Media Distribution, it was announced today by Ted Harbert, Chairman, NBC Broadcasting and Rick Finkelstein, Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, Universal Studios, to whom she will dually report.

Manfredi will continue to oversee NBCUniversal’s product distribution to basic and pay cable and new media platforms. She also oversees all of the company’s non-theatrical distribution business. Manfredi will continue to work closely with Barry Wallach, President, Domestic Television Distribution, and the Domestic TV Distribution team.

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Suzanne Kolb Named President of E! Entertainment

By | Thursday July 7, 2011 @ 10:00am PDT

Back in May, we reported about rumblings that E! Entertainment marketing president Suzanne Kolb had emerged as the top internal candidate to replace Ted Harbert as the network’s president, after Harbert moved on to NBC to oversee stations, affiliates, and sales alongside Bob Greenblatt. NBC Cable chairman Bonnie Hammer took her time, but today she made it official about Kolb. Here’s the release:

Los Angeles, July 7, 2011 – Suzanne Kolb has been named President of E! Entertainment, reporting to Bonnie Hammer, Chairman, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios. Kolb previously served as President, Marketing, News and Online for E! and The Style Network and has played a key leadership role in driving the networks’ record-breaking growth over the past six years. As E! President, Kolb’s senior management team will include longtime E! executives Steve Dolcemaschio, Chief Operating Officer, Lisa Berger, President, Entertainment Programming, and Cyndi McClellan, Executive Vice President, Research & Program Strategy.

“As a member of E!’s leadership team, Suzanne has played a pivotal role in getting the network to the great place it is today,” said Hammer. “Her strong oversight of three areas key to E!’s success — news, online and marketing — makes her the perfect person to lead the brand through the important next phase of its evolution.”

“I am incredibly grateful to Bonnie for the opportunity to lead E! during this wonderfully exciting and unique time in the brand’s history and equally thrilled to do that in partnership with a management team I know and love,” said Kolb. “E! has enjoyed great success in the past but we’re just getting started.”

In her previous role as President, Marketing, News and Online, E! Entertainment and The Style Network, Kolb led all marketing, communications and brand alliances for both networks, and oversaw the networks’ popular non-linear destinations E! Online and mystyle.com. Most recently Kolb successfully unified and expanded E!’s news entities, including E! News, E! Online and E! News Now, and has helped to establish E! News as the top global entertainment news brand.

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E! Narrows Field For Ted Harbert’s Successor

By | Wednesday May 25, 2011 @ 3:25pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Like she had said, NBC Cable chairman Bonnie Hammer is taking her time with finding a new president of E! to succeed Ted Harbert. Word is she is a few weeks away from making a final decision and is still considering a couple of outside candidates. Internally, marketing president Suzanne Kolb has emerged as the top candidate. Additionally, Hammer is planning to add scripted programming to the mix at E!. A search for a scripted executive is underway, with 2013 as a target date for launching E!’s first scripted series.

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Upfronts: NBC Execs Say They’re Going Back To ‘Broadcasting 101′

NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert made it clear that the company had entered the post-Jeff Zucker era with a zinger that the audience at the NBC Upfront Presentation fully understood. They applauded when he said that the company needs “a little less reinvention of the wheel and a lot more Broadcasting 101.” NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt says the specific goals are to become aggressive in developing sitcoms, reinvigorate Thursday night, and hit 10:00 PM “after it was almost abandoned a year ago” when Zucker put Jay Leno in — a strategy partially designed to save money; he added that there’s no mandate to manage for margins or to script. Comcast has said that it will spend an additional $200 million this year on NBC’s prime time shows. (Catching up with Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke, they said the network won’t require any more of an influx than that. “It won’t be needed,” Roberts said. Added Burke: “It’s not so much the money, it’s the shows.”) 

Greenblatt says that the network is approaching its reinvigotation as “a marathon, not a sprint.” Roberts said the “biggest change is the energy and enthusiasm,” and Burke added that the message they want to send out is “we want to hire the best people.” The company stuck to platitudes during the presentation — execs didn’t start off sharing any ratings goals. Greenblatt says, though, that NBC’s hit show The Voice will “dramatically redefine … Read More »

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TCA: No NBC Executive Session

Nellie Andreeva

With the end date for the Comcast-NBC Universal merger still uncertain, NBC has opted to forgo an executive session at its portion of TV Critics Assn.’s winter press tour. With only a week left before the NBCU day of TCA next Thursday, the company finally released its schedule this morning, and it doesn’t feature a panel with executives, a long-standing TCA tradition. NBC’s new top programmer, Robert Greenblatt, is still expected to make an appearance next Thursday though a low-key and informal one as a spectator as his formal appointment as chairman of NBC Entertainment will likely not happen by then. The other new NBC chairman, Ted Harbert, made a TCA appearance last night at Comcast Entertainment Group’s reception.

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COMCAST-NBCU: Ted Harbert And Bob Greenblatt To Run NBC, Pat Fili-Krushel Also Coming, Fired Jeff Zucker Weeping

UPDATES New Comcast/NBCU Organizational Structure

2ND UPDATE: Comcast’s new NBC Universal boss Steve Burke is supposed to finalize his new organizational structure and announce it today. We’d told you previously that Ted Harbert, president and CEO of the Comcast Entertainment Group, might be getting a big new job: it’s alongside former Showtime entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, and the two men will run NBC as equals reporting to Burke. Harbert will oversee stations, affiliates, and sales in NYC while Greenblatt will run programming and possibly marketing as well in LA. These are just two of the big changes that couldn’t wait for FCC regulatory approval, not if NBC wanted to have a development season. As it is Greenblatt and Harbert may not physically take the reins at NBC until mid-January, sources tell us, which is late for this pilot season. ”It’s going to be a long, steep, uphill climb in a tough world,” one insider described to us. “At least those GE boobs will be out of the way.” Meanwhile, sources tell us that fired NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker has been holding mini town hall meetings with company employees and in two different gatherings started crying and had to stop to re-compose himself. Yesterday was the latest breakdown. Last week, he actually closed his office door and cried.

The NBC operations job was previously discussed with chairman and CEO of Fox Networks Group Tony Vinciquerra and CBS Corp’s Nancy Tellem who we’re told “agonized over the decision and went back and forth and wound up somewhere inbetween” after talking to Burke and Greenblatt about it. Sources tell us that Tellem wanted Greenblatt to report to her, but Burke made it clear he had made a commitment that Greenblatt would have unfettered access to him. So Tellem kept pondering until Burke moved on without her in the past 10 days.

Also in the mix will be Pat Fili-Krushel, the former president of the ABC television network and most recently EVP of Administration of Time Warner Inc. She’ll be taking over NBCU’s HR, legal, and other administrative areas. In her role with Time Warner, she worked closely with the other members of Time Warner’s senior management team and its operating divisions on a variety of organizational, developmental and diversity issues. Her responsibilities included oversight of philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, corporate human resources, worldwide recruitment, employee development and growth, compensation and benefits, and security. Burke knew Fili-Krushel from his days at Disney/ABC.

Comcast Programming group president Jeff Shell will be based in London in an international post. NBC cable’s Bonnie Hammer will oversee USA, Syfy, and E!, while Lauren Zalaznick will run Bravo, Oxygen, and Style. We also hear that G4 will mostly likely go to Hammer, and Telemundo to Zalaznick. Sources tell us that today’s announcement won’t mention Angela Bromsted who may or may not survive all these changes, depending on the source, or that eventually Greenblatt may possibly bring in outsiders including Jennifer Nicholson Salke and Danielle Gelber. Read More »

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New Comcast/NBCU Organizational Structure

8TH UPDATE: Comcast is clearing the way for its pending announcement of the new NBC Universal top executive structure. Jeff Gaspin, who had felt more and more as the odd man out in Comcast’s plans for the post-merger NBCU, just sent out a note to NBC Universal employees announcing that he will depart the company following its merger with Comcast after he and new NBCU CEO Steve Burke “could not agree on an appropriate role” for him in the new company. Gaspin had 4 years left on his contract, which was breached by the merger and Burke replacing Jeff Zucker. Gaspin was furious when a report last week claimed he was gone because it wasn’t true: in fact the two men hadn’t made that decision yet even though everyone guessed that’d be the ultimate conclusion because it’s known that Burke wants to decrease the media company’s layers of management. Gaspin has spent a combined 19 years at NBCU, most recently as chairman of NBC Universal TV Entertainment. “I want to thank Jeff for his many significant contributions to NBCU and for his professionalism throughout the integration process,” Burke said in a statement. After sending the memo, Gaspin gathered his senior executive team for an emotional meeting.

EXCLUSIVE… 6TH & 7TH UPDATE:  Jeff Gaspin is flying on an NBC Universal corporate jet from NYC back to LA right now and is telling fellow passengers that a report he is leaving the company is “not accurate”. As we’ve been saying all along, there are a lot of moving parts to this NBCU organizational restructure, and a lot hasn’t been pinned down yet. Gaspin, who is NBCU Television Group President/COO, falls into that category. We’ve learned that he hasn’t had a “definitive conversation” with Comcast about his future yet. And the fact is that, as of today, his future has not been decided. “It may turn out to be true that he leaves. And he’s preparing for it. But it’s not true right now,” an insider just told us.

EXCLUSIVE… 5TH UPDATE: We’ve confirmed that onetime CBS bigwig and now consultant Nancy Tellem has indeed been in formal talks with Comcast brass about taking a top job at NBC alongside Robert Greenblatt. The idea was that he would be in charge of creative, and she would fill a parallel NYC-based network president-type job. Both would report to new NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke. As we reported Comcast hopes to announce the new NBC Universal organizational structure — one which now may or may not include Jeff Gaspin who got on a plane Monday for NYC Monday to meet with Comcast brass. About Tellem, “Comcast is talking to her. Nothing has been decided yet though because there are still ongoing issues. But people are trying to work through those issues,” one insider told us. ”She wants to do it. She just has to make sure the job is right.” Tellem was among half a dozen top-level broadcast executives (including Fox Network Group Chairman/CEO Tony Vinciquerra) approached by Burke some months ago after the Comcast/NBC deal was announced. Tellem was most recently boss of the bulk of CBS Inc’s entertainment operations until she stepped down in December 2009 to become Senior Advisor To The CEO.

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Will Zalaznick’s MTV Maneuvering Backfire?

Ever since the NBC Universal-Comcast merger was announced last year, the obnoxious Lauren Zalaznick has been lobbying for a bigger role within the combined company. And, in the process, she’s made a pest of herself from what I hear. The president of NBC Universal Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks oversees Bravo, Oxygen, and iVillage, and has indicated not very subtlely that a small addition to her current portfolio, such as Comcast’s Style Network, won’t cut it. She’s also threatening to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Sources tell Deadline that Zalaznick took meetings recently with Viacom president/CEO Philippe Dauman and top Viacom cable executives execs including Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks Music /Films /Logo Group. Though these meetings have been described to Deadline as only exploratory, Zalaznick is trying to make Comcast & NBCU believe she’s being eyed for Judy McGrath’s job as chairman/CEO of MTV Networks. Interesting that, last December, Zalaznick was so worried there’d be no upward mobility for her post-merger that she floated speculation she was in advanced talks to take Brian Graden’s job as MTV President of Entertainment running MTV and VH1. Didn’t happen.

The problem for Zalaznick is that her persistent maneuvering is hurting her, not helping her. Meanwhile, Bonnie Hammer is sitting pretty on NBCU’s golden egg, overseeing the company’s most lucrative assets: USA Networks, SyFy, and their in-house studio that produces most of the channels’ series. Zalaznick has tried to make everybody think of herself on the same level as Hammer, even to the point of leaking to the media … Read More »

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