ABC, CBS Have Kind Words for NBC

Times Staff Writer

Call it grace in defeat. Call it putting on a happy face. Call it making the best of a bum deal.

Whatever you call it, NBC’s network competitors were returning phone calls Tuesday as they congenially bowed to the preening peacock’s first ratings win in more than 30 years.

From the Enough Said department, ABC Entertainment President Brandon Stoddard in Century City issued a brief, two-sentence statement.

“Congratulations to NBC,” read the No. 3 network’s spokesman. “We’re glad our season is over.”


Across town at CBS Television City in the Fairfax district, entertainment division President B. Donald (Bud) Grant was equally succinct: “I’ve been first, and I’ve been second. And first is more fun.”

While congratulating NBC on its victory, Grant noted that CBS did not lose audience this season, but stayed “exactly” where it was in the 1984-85 race. CBS didn’t lose so much as NBC forged ahead, especially in the critical first hour, 8-9 p.m., of prime time, Grant said. (Ironically, NBC lost the last week of the season.)

“Obviously what happened is NBC did a great job,” Grant said. “The difference is probably one show--'Bill Cosby.’ It shows what one show can do.

“I’m not saying that next year we can come up with a ‘Cosby,’ but if we can come up with half a ‘Cosby’ at 8 o’clock, we could overtake and surpass NBC.”


Grant’s former boss at CBS, Robert Daly, now co-chairman of Warner Bros., had special praise for the NBC programming team. He, too, fought a similar uphill struggle in the late 1970s, inching CBS past then front-running ABC to take the prime-time crown.

“NBC should feel great,” Daly said. “They did it with series programming, and that’s the way it should be done.”

Next year, Daly said, NBC and CBS could be in for a real horse race, while ABC is likely to remain in its third-place position. “CBS and NBC will be battling it out next year,” Daly said. “You still have to give NBC the nod. They’ll be going into next year the favorite.”

There was one other executive in town with a kind word for NBC: Fred Silverman, the former president of the network, who earlier led CBS and ABC to ratings victories before losing his renowned golden touch during his three-year reign on NBC’s peacock throne. (A previous engagement kept Silverman from attending an NBC staff victory party Monday night at the Sheraton Universal hotel.)


“I’m delighted,” Silverman said. “I think it’s terrific. It shakes the industry up a bit.”

Silverman had a special word for his one-time protege, NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff. “I think that NBC’s victory is really his victory,” Silverman said.