NBC is looking to become more flexible when it comes to episode orders as Co-Chairmen George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy lifted the lid on their plans to “rewrite the rules” on the traditional network development process.
The pair, who this morning laid out their first full season schedule since taking over from Bob Greenblatt last year, also discussed how the linear network will work closely with NBCUniversal’s forthcoming SVOD service in terms of development.
The network would not elaborate about specifics about its non-traditional episode orders but, according to sources, they will be implemented across the board, in comedy, drama and non-scripted.
Telegdy said, “There are some episode orders that I think you’ll consider as non-traditional length. For as long as I’ve understood American network television, people have talked about order numbers of 13 with a back nine. We’re looking at it in terms of a far more flexible way that deals with the creative proposition. There are some shows that work perfectly for 22 weeks and there are some, both in terms of conversations with creators but also understanding what the audience want, have a different order length [requirement]. We’re remaining incredibly flexible in terms of how we looked at the length of every project.”
In Brit Telegdy’s previous roles in the UK, and particularly at the BBC, he would have considered anything above a six-part order a large commission and sounds like he’s taking some inspiration from British broadcasters.
The pair have also said that this season’s slate must be viewed in the “complex changing world”. They highlighted the digital success of shows like The Good Place, which they said when NBC digital viewing was added, was its fourth most popular show.
“While our network might be stable, our industry is most certainly not. In the nine months that Paul and I have been in these roles, we’ve questioned some of the traditional greenlighting and scheduling methodology,” said Cheeks.
“This has given us flexibility to rewrite some of the rules and we’re having a lot of fun doing it, added Telegdy.
NBC, well known for its Must See TV comedy strand, has also decided to go with a broad comedy slate to find an audience “on whatever platform they find it”. Cheeks called comedy the “heart of the NBC brand” and was upbeat about the fact that NBC originals such as The Office were some of the most popular titles on rival Netflix.
Broad comedy was its “mandate” as they developed this season’s slate. Cheeks particularly pointed to multi-camera multi-generational family comedy Indebted, which comes from from writer Dan Levy, Sony TV and Doug Robinson Productions and marks the return of The Nanny star Drescher to network sitcom.
“We feel really strong about these comedies and we are looking for broad, four quadrant comedies that appeal to everybody,” he said.
This is in contrast with past exploits to move into slightly more niche fare, such as titles including 2012’s monkey comedy Animal Practice.
A number of NBC’s biggest bets, including The Kenan Show and the return of Manifest, are heading to midseason. However, the pair said that this can no longer be viewed in the same way as in the past, when a fall launch was a much more positive look for a launch. One plan is to give titles like Manifest and Will & Grace a “clean run” without as many repeat breaks.
He said that the ratings success of shows like America’s Got Talent: The Champions gives midseasons a similarly strong lead-in. “For us, There’s no negative to a show being launched midseason on the network because the traditional notions are not really part of the discussion,” he said, adding that it has “enormous marketing resources available to us on a year round basis”.
Telegdy also highlighted the forthcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo. “We’ve been told the next Summer Olympics may be the biggest TV program in history,” he added.
Although the pair didn’t go into too much detail about NBCU’s ad-supported streaming service, which is set to launch in 2020, they did reveal that there was a “collaborative” environment within the company to allow both linear and digital to thrive.
“This year, we’re also looking at ways in which we can use the linear network as a starting line for people to watch our shows for years to come,” said Cheeks, alluding to launching traditional comedies that can have a long-shelf life after their initial linear runs.
“Our studios are focused on not only programming NBC but helping to program the OTT service so we look at it through both filters. We’re developing projects for both and if there are pilots developed for NBC that we think are better for the OTT service, we send them right over to that programming team,” he added.