In the latest “Influencer Interview” on LinkedIn, NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt told Executive Editor Daniel Roth how he changed the “politically driven with press leaks” culture at NBC and how “disruptors” triggered NBC’s successful bid to bring live musicals back to TV.
When he came on board, “We were the No. 4 network by a long shot and we had been in that position for a number of years and so we were just trying to figure out what do we do to start turning the ship around,” Greenblatt reminisced. Asked by Roth how he changed, “not just the company but also the culture of the company,” the exec responded: “The biggest cultural attention that had to be paid was how do you lift the company out of this feeling of we’re just never going to be anything other than we are right now which is dead last? We changed a lot of people, and brought in some new thinking and had to make those difficult decisions. But I think, culturally, the most important thing was just to get people back to the feeling of it is possible, and I’m not a very politically driven person. I think it’s a pretty relaxing environment that I like to have and I think everybody responded to that. It had been very politically driven in the past and there were leaks to the press and all kinds of subterfuge was going on and I just got rid of all that and-”
“That’s a big statement. You ‘just get rid,'” Roth interrupted, wondering how he accomplished that.
“I got rid of it because it just isn’t who I am and I don’t want it,” Greenblatt said. “Unfortunately, I think you have to bring in a lot of new people who don’t respond that way and who aren’t mired in the past and you get really conditioned when you’re in an oppressive place to respond a certain way. And we went, department by department and business leader by business leader, and looked at every single thing and I think 80% of the company, at least upper management, is different. That trickles down over time. I don’t think it’s the only way to solve the problem. You have to retrain people and lead in a different place but that didn’t take too long to get going.
“Then of course the other answer is you just have to have shows that become hits, and hit is a word that we define differently than we did back in the day, but you’ve got to have shows that people love and want to be a part of putting on and that they’re excited about.”
The addition of Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services to the landscape “is always good news and some bad news,” Greenblatt acknowledged. “But at the end of the day, I think the disruptors are always good for the business because they make you think twice about what you’re doing. Case in point is these live musicals that we do. There was no big strategy session that led to this. It’s just one day we thought, ‘How do we do something that is going to shake up our audience a little bit?’ That idea came to us and we cultivated it,” he said. “I don’t think anybody thought it was a particularly good idea or a bad idea. It was just a crazy idea until it was proven to be a great idea because we attracted a huge audience,” Greenblatt added about NBC’s first stab at reviving the live musical on TV, with 2013’s The Sound of Music Live! ” Then we refined it and built it into a business that’s really successful and financially smarter and better in terms of the finished product.”
He added: “Netflix is great on a certain level. They pay us hundreds of millions of dollars for our programming; they built their service to a great degree on the legacy programming of broadcast networks, and that’s good news on some level. It’s also bad news if it’s competitive and they’re pulling people away from our network. But there’s so many things that are changing. You got to be open to all of them. The lengths of seasons of shows used to be 22, 24 episodes. That has changed dramatically.”