NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt is planning to step down after nearly eight years as the network’s top programmer — a period that saw the peacock network return to financial prosperity and ratings success.
Greenblatt has not formally announced that he is leaving, but two people close to the network said he approached NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke in recent weeks and the two began negotiating his exit, although the details are still being worked out.
It was not immediately clear when Greenblatt will hand over the reins — or who might replace him as head of NBCUniversal’s Los Angeles-based TV division.
Greenblatt was one of Burke’s first hires, in early 2011, when cable television company Comcast Corp. took control of NBCUniversal from General Electric Co. Greenblatt, who previously was a TV producer and a top executive at Showtime, has presided over a steady strengthening of the NBC broadcast network. He has been responsible for NBC’s prime-time schedule, late-night shows and scripted daytime programming for NBC as well as the Universal Television production studio.
NBC has finished the past few seasons in first place among the demographic of viewers ages 18 to 49, which is most important to advertisers. During his tenure, NBC launched such hit shows as “This is Us” and several of Dick Wolf’s Chicago-themed dramas, including “Chicago Fire.”
Greenblatt, 58, did not respond to requests for comment.
NBC declined to comment.
Greenblatt as recently as two weeks ago dismissed speculation about his future at NBC. But people close to the network said he began mulling his exit over the summer, in large part because he wanted to go out with a winning record.
The broadcast television business has become increasing challenged with declining ratings and increased competition for viewers’ attention from video streaming services. Deep-pocketed rivals such as Netflix and Amazon.com have been scooping up A-list show runners with lucrative contracts and promises of creative freedom, including producing shows that don’t necessarily have to draw big ratings.
NBC finished the 2017-2018 television season in first place in all key audience categories, boosted by its broadcast of the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics in South Korea, which were both ratings juggernauts. It was the first time in more than 15 years that NBC achieved that milestone. The upcoming season, which begins Monday, is expected to be more of a slog because NBC won’t have those big sporting events. CBS will televise the Super Bowl and rival Fox broadcasting will air NFL “Thursday Night Football,” a franchise that NBC and CBS shared last year.
Greenblatt’s top deputy, Jennifer Salke, left NBC earlier this year to run Amazon Studios, based in Culver City. Greenblatt relied heavily on Salke to work with talent agents and producers and cull through television projects, particularly during the frenetic pilot development process. For example, Salke was the network’s biggest champion for “This is Us,” which went on to become NBC’s signature drama.
Greenblatt’s signature move at NBC was leading a revival of live specials and the return of fan favorite “Will & Grace.” Earlier this week, NBC had the third-biggest haul in Emmy Awards with 16 Primetime Emmys on the strength of such shows as “Saturday Night Live” and its live special “Jesus Christ Superstar” with John Legend and Alice Cooper.
Greenblatt is a Tony-winning producer and has been heavily involved in the revival of “Tootsie,” which is bound for Broadway next spring after its pre-Broadway run in Chicago.
Variety first reported on Greenblatt’s exit plans.