January 16, 2009 / 12:47 AM / 11 years ago

NBC sees rescue in quality, cutting edge TV shows

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBC’s new programing chief said on Thursday the network would strive for more cutting edge and quality TV shows to raise it from its bottom ranking among the four major U.S. networks.

Angela Bromstad, who was appointed president of prime time entertainment in December 2008 after an NBC management shake-up, said there were no plans to cut back on program development or embark on major cost-cutting programs.

“We are not going to cut back on our development. We have some challenges on the schedule so it is not wise to cut back on research and development,” Bromstad told television critics at NBC’s mid-season presentation.

NBC, a unit of General Electric Co-controlled media company NBC Universal, is currently the least-watched of the four major U.S. television networks. It has lost 11.2 percent of its prime-time audience so far in the 2008-9 season compared with the same period a year ago.

U.S. network television overall is struggling to retain audiences amid competition from digital entertainment.

Bromstad said NBC would be shooting the same amount of pilots — six dramas and four comedies — for the 2009-2010 season as it had two years ago, before the industry was brought to its knees by a five-month Hollywood screen writers strike.

“We are not doing anything additional or changing anything to cut costs. We are going to try and run a very smart ship and contain costs,” she said.

NBC announced in December that late night chat show host Jay Leno would appear in a new show at the earlier time of 10 pm, five nights, a week in June 2009.

The Leno move was widely seen as a bid to appeal to advertisers by scheduling a topical show that would be more likely to be viewed live rather than in recording. It also represents considerable cost savings compared to scripted drama or comedy series.

Bromstad said she had no hard and fast rules about the direction of NBC programing but added. “We have to have the quality and we have to have the ratings.

“I think it (NBC) has to be a little more cutting edge and edgier .... We do have to pay attention to what is going on in cable and some of those really innovative shows,” she said, without elaborating.

New mid-season shows on NBC include an as yet untitled mockumentary about local government starring “Saturday Night Live” actress Amy Poehler; a celebrity version of “The Apprentice,” a police drama “Southland” from Emmy-award winning producer John Wells, and a cooking competition show called “The Chopping Block” with celebrity chef Marco Pierre White.

Bromstad said NBC had also struck a two-year, first look development deal with actor Don Cheadle and his production company Crescendo Productions to develop series projects.

“My strategy it to live up to both the brand and the legacy of NBC, which is popular shows but which exude quality and appeals to a broad audience,” Bromstad said.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Richard Chang)

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