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Zucker Backs Reilly

NBC Universal Television Group President Jeff Zucker gave NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly a vote of confidence Sunday, while saying he did not expect ratings for the fourth-place network to turn around this season.

Speaking after Reilly's session with television critics in Los Angeles, Zucker dismissed rumors of Reilly's job being in any jeopardy.

"He hasn't asked for any reassurance and he doesn't need any reassurance," said Zucker. "There are no issues, whatsoever. Those are the games played in this town."

During his session with the media, Reilly was questioned about those rumors. "It's weird," he said. "That stuff goes on. It just goes on as part of the business. It's kind of strangely a character builder. You expect it."

Both Reilly and Zucker, who did not hold a formal session with the media, spent Sunday morning pushing the new company line of humility first and trying to lower expectations for any sort of a turnaround this season.

"I don't know what the ratings will be, but there is no question that we understand we're in a downturn right now and that doesn't turn around overnight," Zucker said.

"There is an understanding that these things take time. We are fortunate that the rest of the company is performing as well as it is, that makes that a little easier to swallow."

Peacock Got Prime Time Colonic

Reilly opened his presentation Sunday by telling the media, "Really, last season for us was kind of a colonic. It wasn't a lot of fun to go through at the time, but it's going to be healthy in the long run. It literally took any residual sense of entitlement or complacency at our company and blew it out, so to speak."

During the session, Reilly also noted that no layoffs were planned as a result of the network's sluggish upfront sales this year, which were reportedly down nearly $1 billion.

But he said there would be "some natural attrition" and "probably some freezing in areas where we would maybe have added heads." He added that the network has "beefed up" the development budget and is making more pilots than last year

Reilly also said that after ABC had success last season by focusing its pre-premiere marketing push on Desperate Housewives and Lost, NBC will follow a similar strategy this year by highlighting Earl, Surface and E-Ring.