NBC Entertainment President Brandon Tartikoff, proud as the proverbial peacock that his network has won its first prime-time season in 31 years, said Tuesday that he’s not sure he’d be the right man to run NBC when and if board Chairman Grant Tinker leaves the company.
“I think I’m of much better service to this company” in overseeing its programming, Tartikoff said, adding that the chairmanship of NBC “hasn’t been offered to me, and I don’t expect it to be offered to me.”
There has been speculation that Tinker, the patient architect behind NBC’s prime-time ratings comeback, may soon leave the company he’s headed since 1981, although he says he won’t think about his future until after General Electric Co. completes its proposed takeover of RCA Corp., parent company of NBC.
Tartikoff, giving carefully worded replies to questions on whether he’d succeed Tinker, declined to flatly say he’d turn down the job were it offered him. He spoke at a live-by-satellite closed-circuit interview with reporters in 11 cities.
“Right now, today, I feel that the job I have is the best job in the business, and I’d be real hard-pressed to give it up to do something that would remove me even further from what I consider to be my strong point, which is working with the shows,” he said.
The wide-ranging, one-hour news conference was arranged to coincide with the release Tuesday of A.C. Nielsen Co. figures that made official what had been expected for several months--that NBC, was first in the just-ended prime-time season. Until last year, when it finished a strong second to CBS, NBC had been No. 3 for nine consecutive seasons.
Ironically, NBC’s victory was mildly marred by its third-place ratings finish in the last week of the 1985-86 season. CBS was first for the week and ABC second. But the 30-week Nielsen averages showed that NBC the overall victor with a 17.5 ratings average, representing about 15 million households.
CBS, for six seasons the ratings champ, was second, with a 16.7 average, while troubled ABC, third last season, repeated that performance this season with a dismal 14.9 rating. Each rating point represents 859,000 homes.
Tartikoff called the victory “the culmination of a lot of building blocks over a lot of seasons.” The network’s long-awaited triumph was due in large part to the hit “The Cosby Show,” “Family Ties,” “Miami Vice” and the new “The Golden Girls.”
He also called called on the industry to adopt a 52-week television season instead of the current 30-week season now commonly used by advertisers and the networks.
Tartikoff argued that “it makes tremendous sense for advertisers to buy 52 weeks a year” and for networks to program on that basis instead of relying heavily on reruns during the summer and sprinkling in repeats the rest of the year.
A year-round season, he said, would lead to “better-caliber programming,” improve all three networks’ ratings and perhaps even boost improve network profits.
On other matters, Tartikoff, sitting in a TV studio at NBC’s Burbank offices, said that:
--NBC News’ new on-again, off-again news-magazine series, previously called “American Almanac,” definitely will get a weekly tryout run in June, although with an as-yet-undecided new title. The series will be co-anchored by Roger Mudd and Connie Chung.
--No decision has been made yet on the future of the 10-year-old “Saturday Night Live,” which some critics this season have assailed as past its prime. He said “I suppose that we’ll probably be making a judgment” about the show when NBC decides its new fall schedule, which is to be made public on May 15.
--ABC, whose programming department now is headed by the respected Brandon Stoddard, may “slowly but surely” begin a rebuilding process similar to that begun by NBC in 1982, a year after Fred Silverman left the then third-rated peacock network.
He also joked about program trends at rival networks, who also will announce their fall schedules in mid-May: “I’m not an expert on what ABC and CBS are doing. I think that certainly there are some clones of ‘Golden Girls.’ There are ‘Golden Boys,’ ‘Golden Uncles,’ ‘Younger Golden Girls,’ all sorts of programs that feature a more mature acting population.”
Tartikoff downplayed the current dispute between networks and program producers over so-called “license fees,” the money networks pay to partially finance programs. Producers and major studios, such as Universal, say that the fees need to be greatly increased because they’re running too much in the red to get the shows made.
Profits on the programs come when they are sold in syndication after broadcast by the networks.
“I think where there’s a will there’s a way,” Tartikoff said of the license fee dispute. “And I think a lot of the crying from the black tower at Universal and other places was an over-reaction to a momentary blip in the program syndication market-place.”