800-Pound Peacocks and Gorillas

Walking up to the Hilton on Avenue of the Americas, NBC had an armada of painted taxi cabs circling the hotel.

In tune with the network’s “more colorful” pitch, each proudly displayed one of the shades of the Peacock’s tail feathers, providing a warm marketing welcome to NBC’s primetime upfront advertising presentation.

Outside and inside, there was no mention of the 800-pound Peacock that shadowed the room:  Comcast, which if the feds do their thing, will soon put NBC Universal in its programming basket display. Cable, the primary reason, Comcast wants to form its JV, also received nary a mention.

After going heavy on reality and Leno last season, fourth-place NBC has significantly upped its development slate and spending accordingly. Jeff Gaspin, chairman of the television entertainment group at NBCU, and Angela Bromstad, president of primetime entertainment, talked up pick-ups from such TV name brands as J.J. Abrams (Undercovers), Jerry Bruckheimer (Chase) and David Kelly (Harry’s Law).

There were also some name brands from NBC’s most successful night, Sundays in the fall. The network rolled out its on-air Sunday Night Football team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, as well as its studio squad of Dan Patrick, Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy and Bob Costas.

It was left for the inimitable Costas to inform the assembled media buyers that SNF, which Michaels described as a hybrid show — “reality TV in its purest form, high drama and hopefully a little bit of comedy” — had upped its Nielsen game over each of the past four years, winning more and more of the Sunday nights. Finally, NBC’s SNF pulled “an across the board sweep” during the 2009 season, Costas said.

The sizzle wheel showcased a bevy of key matchups, kicking off with the Thursday night opener, a rematch of last season’s NFC title game between the now defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, as well as divisional contests between Dallas and Washington, the Jets and Dolphins, Minnesota and Green Bay from fabled Lambeau and a certain sibling rivalry matching Eli and Peyton in Manning Bowl II.

At this end of the field, though, an 800-pound gorilla was mentioned. Costas said NBC — not to mention Dick Ebersol, Roger Goodell, network executives and football fans everywhere — is “assuming, praying Brett Favre will play” for the Vikings this season.

If that’s the case, I’m assuming media buyers will be paying a lot more for their commercial units in the games on SNF, MNF and Fox and CBS.