NATPE: NBC Not Cutting Scripted Fare

NBC isn't cutting scripted fare at 8 p.m. – they're just doing it like cable.

That was the word from NBC U TV West Coast President Marc Graboff Wednesday at NATPE.

Probably the most publicized part of NBC's " 2.0" initiative was the network's plan to save money by cutting scripted series from the 8 p.m. time slot and replacing them with cheaper reality fare.

But Graboff says that message was misconstrued.

"What we're trying to get away with in the 8:00 hour is inexpensive scripted programming," he said, speaking on a NATPE panel featuring several studio chiefs. "We're looking at the cable cost of programming in the 8 p.m. hour of scripted shows."

That was actually the same message that NBC executives have been saying for months. In fact, NBCU TV Group CEO Jeff Zucker told B&C when the initiative was announced in October 2006 that he had no plans to completely cut scripted at 8. But whether a broadcast network would run scripted series made on a cable budget remains to be seen.

"There isn't a network around who has legitimately attempted to put on low-cost scripted programming," said 20th Century Fox TV President Gary Newman.

Graboff disagreed, citing as an example NBCU Television Studio's In Plain Sight. The series, he said, was envisioned at USA but would go to NBC if the cable network passed. The show was actually just renamed Mary Sunshine and ordered to series, but Graboff's point still held – NBC was open to airing scripted shows of a slightly less expensive variety.

But again, he was challenged.

"You are a dreamer," said Touchstone TV President Mark Pedowitz, arguing that a broadcast network wouldn't air a scripted series shot on a cable budget. "The expectation of the talent and of the broadcast executives will lay a cost on that. Not a chance."

"I'm an idealist," Graboff shot back, before conceding that the show, to end up on broadcast TV, might have to be "a little more expensive."

Never one to back down, Pedowitz countered: "$100 bucks down, it'll be a lot more expensive."