* Will roll out six comedies, six dramas for 2011-12
* Says confident NFL games will be played
* To unveil 2011-12 lineup to advertisers on Monday
By Paul Thomasch
NEW YORK, May 15 NBC will attempt to revive its
TV schedule by stuffing it with a dozen new shows next season,
building a new block of comedy and rolling out a high-profile
musical drama from producer Steven Spielberg.
While NBC ordered up a clutch of new scripted series for
2011-12, its schedule will still be anchored by several
competition shows returning from this past season, including
musical hit "The Voice" and the long-running "Celebrity
Apprentice" -- with or without Donald Trump.
NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, in announcing
the new schedule on Sunday, made clear he was impatient to make
major changes to a prime-time schedule that has long suffered
from poor ratings and failed experiments. Greenblatt took over
the job earlier this year.
"I got there right in the nick of time before we had to
start picking up drama pilots," Greenblatt said on a conference
call. "I'll take ownership of the projects."
Those dramas include "Smash," a midseason musical set on
Broadway that will be produced by Spielberg and star Katharine
McPhee from "American Idol"; and "The Firm," an update of
novelist John Grisham's legal thriller.
NBC's lineup will also feature "Prime Suspect," based on
the popular British series, with film actress Maria Bello
landing the role as lead detective, and "The Playboy Club," set
in a Chicago nightclub in the early 1960s.
"I'd love to make any of these dramas work," Greenblatt
After NBC, News Corp's (NWSA.O) Fox, Walt Disney Co's
(DIS.N) ABC and CBS, owned by CBS Corp (CBS.N), will introduce
their 2011-12 schedules to critics, affiliates and advertisers.
Ad sales will then get underway.
NBC may have the most to prove. This is the first schedule
built under the new majority owner, Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O), and
an overhauled management headed by Chief Executive Steve Burke
and Greenblatt, a former Showtime executive.
In the weeks after the 2011-12 schedules are announced, a
period known as the upfront market, the four major networks
will book up to 75 percent of their ad time for the coming
This year's negotiations come during a heady stretch for
the U.S. networks, with money streaming back into national
television campaigns. Ad rates could be up 10 percent from a
year ago, and the big four networks could collectively book
$8.5 billion to $9 billion in commitments. [ID:nN02211211]
Some of those price increases will depend on whether the
networks can come up with hits for the 2011-12 TV season. That
is particularly true when it comes to NBC, whose prime-time
schedule has floundered for years.
"If we could do one or two good things really successfully
I would be thrilled," said Greenblatt, who will introduce the
prime-time lineup to advertisers and affiliates during a
presentation in New York on Monday.
Along with the new dramas, Greenblatt said he would try to
build a new comedy block on Wednesday nights, launching "Up All
Night," produced by Emmy Award winner Lorne Michaels and
starring Christina Applegate as a woman trying to juggle her
career and family. The other Wednesday night addition during
the fall will be "Free Agents," a workplace comedy based on a
similar British series.
Sunday nights in the fall will be anchored by NFL football,
depending on whether a lockout by team owners scraps the
season. Greenblatt said contingency plans had been made,
probably in the form of reality shows, but added that he
believed the season would be played.
"We're feeling pretty good about where we will be with the
After the NFL season, NBC will bring back "The Celebrity
Apprentice" on Sunday nights, even if host Donald Trump decides
to step away from the show to pursue politics.
"I wouldn't say it's a certainty but we're hoping he's back
with us," said Greenblatt, adding that if necessary "the show
will will go on in his absence."
(Reporting by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Richard Chang)