NBC Upfront Earns Positive Reviews

NBC’s upfront presentation Monday at mid-day earned a positive reception from media buyers.

“With the assets of Comcast behind them and fully committed to the entertainment industry, you’re going to see NBC evolve. This is a step in the right direction,” said Bill Koenigsberg, CEO of Horizon Media.

“I think you saw a lot of investment, which is good. You didn’t see that for years,” said Antony Young, president of Optimedia.

Young thought the new NBC comedies were a bit formulaic. On the other hand, he was a big fan of the new drama Smash, which will join the schedule at mid-season.

But he noted there was only so much you could tell from the presentation. He said he wanted to see the pilots, and that the way the shows would be marketed is also crucial. “You’ve got to get some buzz going to keep them going beyond the launch,” he said.

Indeed, while buyers said NBC was on the right track and wanted to sound encouraging, they privately noted the network had a ways to go and that some of its series, particularly its dramas, appeared complex and seemed to demand a lot from viewers.

In a report, MagnaGlobal noted that clips from NBC’s Wednesday comedies, Up All Night and Free Agents “weren’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny” and that “this will undoubtedly be an uphill battle.” NBC’s new 10 p.m. Thursday drama, Prime Suspect, is lined up against another procedural with a quirky central character, The Mentalist from CBS. “That will make it hard to get a foothold,” the Magna report said.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, who watched from the audience, told B&C he recalled being at NBC’s upfront last year, but being in “a bit of limbo” because the acquisition hadn’t been finalized. The cable exec didn’t seem overly fazed by the showbiz aspects of his new property.

“There is a new energy,” Roberts said, adding that NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt is “somebody who knows what he’s doing.”

During the presentation, the Comcast connection came up a few times.

Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live noted that the Comcast merger had been completed and that he had to say things are better already. “Seriously. I have to say that things are better already,” he joked.

Ted Harbert, chairman of NBC, said while the media landscape had changed NBC’s fundamental mission is the same. When it comes to fixing primetime, “the only way to do that is put on better shows,” he said. To do that, NBC needs “a little less reinvention and a lot more broadcasting 101.”

Donald Trump appeared to announce he would not be running for president, which means he will continue as host of Celebrity Apprentice.

Later in the presentation, late night host Jimmy Fallon, appeared in order to serenade media buyers and NBC’s new owners, showing that while he claims not to be a corporate stooge, he’s not Jimmy Kimmel either.

“Have a Comcastic day. Have a Comcastic night. Throw all your cash at these brand new shows and everything will be alright,” he sang to his bosses and media buyers.

NBC Sports Group President Dick Ebersol described plans for covering the 2012 Summer Olympics from London for 200 hours a day, including NBC, NBC Universal cable networks, online streaming and mobile broadcast.(NBC will stream 2000 hours online to a new player with HD picture quality, DVR capabilities and the ability to display sponsor messages througout.

USA squads in team sports will be shown live during seven hour daytime blocks and one of at leat five cable channels that will carry the Olympics will focus on live tennis. (Comcast is in a dispute over carriage of Tennis Channel, but Ebersol said “that’s on the other side of the house.”)

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Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.