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NBC Shakes Up Development

Jun 16, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Pitch season is gearing up, and agents, writers and producers will find new faces to pitch to at NBC.
Kevin Reilly, entertainment president at FX, is moving to NBC in a new position as president of prime-time development, which was created in a major restructuring of the network’s development department. Mr. Reilly will oversee all aspects of the network’s prime-time development and oversee NBC Studios. He will report to NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker.
However, Mr. Reilly’s contract at FX isn’t up until the end of August, and he is still working out his exact start date at NBC. Mr. Reilly said he expects to start at NBC sometime in late summer. Some industry insiders speculate that could put NBC at a disadvantage, because networks are taking more pitch in the summer than in previous years, and Mr. Reilly won’t be there to hear them.
NBC isn’t concerned because the majority of pitches don’t really happen until September, said an NBC spokeswoman. “It’s not a concern,” she said. “Jeff [Zucker] is around and can take any pitches, as can Angela [Bromstad] and Chris Conti and Cheryl Dolins. They are all here and capable.”
Ms. Bromstad, who has been senior VP of drama development at NBC, was promoted to head NBC Studios as executive VP of NBC Studios. Ms. Dolins, who has been VP, prime-time series, NBC Studios, will become senior VP, comedy development at NBC, replacing JoAnn Alfano, who announced her departure last week to head the TV unit at Lorne Michael’s Broadway Video. Both will report to Mr. Reilly. Mr. Conti remains senior VP of drama development at NBC.
Left out of the new structure is Karey Burke, executive VP, prime-time development, and NBC Studios President Ted Harbert. Both will remain at the network through the transition, with Ms. Burke expected to stay until mid-July and Mr. Harbert through the end of June.
Mr. Reilly said he considered staying at FX but he just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to NBC, where he started his career. He spent six years at the network in positions ranging from manager of creative affairs for NBC Productions to VP of drama development for NBC Entertainment.
“NBC finds itself right now [as] still the dominant network with a lot of firepower left in the schedule but looking to that next generation of hits and needing to replace some of the biggest hits on the schedule,” Mr. Reilly said. “That’s a really opportune time to come. Some would say that’s a perilous time to come. I think that kind of peril gives you great focus.”
With “Friends” and “Frasier” ending their runs next year and “ER” and “Law & Order” aging, NBC is in need of fresh hits. And while NBC has found critical success with new dramas such as “The West Wing,” “Boomtown” and “American Dreams,” none have become huge breakout hits like CBS’s “CSI” or Fox’s “American Idol.”
At FX, Mr. Reilly played a large role in repositioning the network from a place to see off-network repeats to a destination for original programming. He developed series such as “The Shield,” which won a Golden Globe Award for Best Drama Series, “Lucky” and the upcoming drama series “Nip/Tuck,” which has received a lot of positive buzz.
NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker said he’s only known Mr. Reilly well for a couple months, but that the job Mr. Reilly’s done at FX caught Mr. Zucker’s eye.
“Kevin obviously knows NBC very well, having grown up here and having been involved in the creation of some great shows here,” Mr. Zucker said. “He’s proved in the last couple years that he’s one of the best programmers and developers of his generation. He’s combined commercial sensibilities with quality sensibilities that are a perfect fit for NBC.”
Mr. Zucker said Mr. Reilly would have the power to greenlight projects. “He’s going to have a free rein, but I’ll be there and still be very involved,” Mr. Zucker said.
Mr. Zucker said he decided to make the slew of personnel changes while the network was on top and from a position of strength.
“I just thought that it was the right time to take a look at the way we were structured,” he said. “Unlike studios like Touchstone and 20th, which are affiliated with networks, this company’s studio only produces for this network, so I thought we should be as closely aligned as possible.”
Mr. Reilly said Ms. Burke’s and Mr. Harbert’s departures were the result of mutual decisions and that they both could remain in the NBC family with production deals.
Ms. Burke has been rumored to be considering forming a production company with former ABC Entertainment President Jamie Tarses.
FX will fill Mr. Reilly’s position but does not have a timetable in mind.
Mr. Reilly’s appointment is widely seen in the industry as making him the heir apparent to the entertainment president position when Mr. Zucker leaves to move up the corporate ladder in New York. Mr. Reilly said he’s aware of the talk, but, “We’re going to take it one step at a time.”
Mr. Zucker said succession was not discussed.
Other changes in the development ranks include Katherine Pope to VP of drama development at NBC from VP, prime-time series, at NBC Studios, and Renate Radford to manager prime-time series, NBC Studios from associate in NBC’s drama development department.