NBC entertainment chiefs talk binge experiment, ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ envy
On the last day of the Television Critics Assn. media tour, NBC’s entertainment chiefs opened up about the network’s programming experiments and plans for the future.
NBC’s chairman of entertainment, Robert Greenblatt, and entertainment president, Jennifer Salke, appeared before reporters Thursday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and, perhaps as a way to give a break to the broken-record statements those in attendance have heard throughout two week-plus conference, made a joke about the so-called apocalyptic state of television.
“You’ll be glad to know I threw out my 15-minute power point about how challenged our business is,” Greenblatt teased. “I think you guys know all of the headlines. I thought I’d give you my 15-second version: Too many shows, not enough monetization, fractured audience, Netflix didn’t report ratings, what did Nielsen do this time? And how do we find the next big comedy?”
Kidding aside, here are some bullet points from the 45-minute session:
—The binge test: NBC recently experimented with the all-at-once release tactic made popular by streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. The network released all episodes of its summer drama “Aquarius” via various on-demand platforms immediately after the series premiere.
“We’re the most traditional kind of network, and we’re always looking for ways to become less traditional,” Greenblatt said of the experiment. In the end, he noted, 94% of the show’s audience watched on television sets, while just 6% watched online. But attention was also paid, he said, to the fact that those who did watch online were younger -- with a median age of 35.
—The live network? Greenblatt spent some time talking about the power of live events as a reason for the network’s investment in live productions. It also helps that Greenblatt is a fan of the genre: “I’m a live junkie,” he said. The network has a live-ish variety show from Neil Patrick Harris coming this season, and has found some success in doing live episodes with its comedy “Undateable.” That’s in addition to the musical productions it has had an interest in -- next up is “The Wiz Live,” which has been steadily adding some noteworthy names to its cast (most recently music figures Common and Ne-Yo). Greenblatt said he’d like to next try the method with dramas.
—"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” regret? The comedy from NBCUniversal TV moved to Netflix after being nixed by NBC. Greenblatt said he stands by the decision to pass on the comedy -- reiterating his view that it had a better chance of survival on the streaming site. But he joked that when all the Emmy glory came knocking on the comedy’s doorstep on nominations morning last month, it would have been nice to have been part of the action: “We’re whores for Emmy nominations just like everyone else.”
Comedy has been a tough nut for the network to crack as of late. Once the go-to for popular and critically acclaimed comedies, it has struggled to find a hit in recent years. Greenblatt did use his time on stage to announce new comedy pilots from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock and a 13-episode series commitment to a comedy from “Parks & Recreation” executive producer Mike Schur.
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