Learning the NBC Pilot Biz

Aug 18, 2003  •  Post A Comment

What some East Coast NBC interns did this summer would turn some producers green with envy: They pitched projects they had developed to network executives.
The interns participated in a new pilot program created by NBC staffing manager Carrie Maltese.
From the 180 interns who applied, Ms. Maltese’s staff selected 20 and assembled five teams of five interns each. On their lunch hours and often on their own time, the interns conceived a program, forecast sales and drew up marketing and promotion strategies. They had access to network veterans and executives whose areas of expertise were relevant.
Ms. Maltese said the team named Team News proposed a reality/documentary show for Bravo. Team Entertainment pitched a reality-based skit show. And Team Wild Card pitched a drama. Team Corporate proposed a sitcom. On Aug. 4 and 5 a panel of human resources personnel judged the entries and selected Team CNBC’s proposal of a CNBCprogram. That earned Team CNBC and one representative of each of the other four teams a chance to an Aug. 7 audience with a panel that included executives from sales, casting and news, who gathered in the network boardroom.
“That alone made them nervous, because they had never been up there before,” Ms. Maltese said.
Frank Radice, senior VP of the NBC Agency, was among those who heard Team CNBC’s final presentation. “It was about as complete as anything I have ever seen professionals do,” he enthused.
Then came the follow-up questions from the executives, who were impressed by such touches as a gross ratings point projection based on the history of the time period. But the team made one suggestion that wasn’t so well received. The interns’ promotion plan called for spots for the CNBC show on NBC-during November sweeps. “Not!” joked Mr. Radice, who plans to forward one of the reality pitches to Entertainment President Jeff Zucker.
One intern, a Telemundo representative on Team Corporate and a marketing major, a junior in business school, interned last year in the marketing research department of a large oil company. She had high praise for NBC’s program, which Ms. Maltese said was primarily designed to teach team building and leadership skills and to encourage creative thinking.
“We were hoping to get them out of their normal comfort zone,” Ms. Maltese said. “It is not designed to come up with the next hit.”
Indeed, the students signed releases and knew there would be no financial windfall for them, only the possibility of receiving a certificate and a gold trophy for a job well done. The marketing major intern said she got so much out of the pilot program, “I don’t think I could settle for an internship that would offer anything less.”