Just days before its March development meetings, NBC announced it is shaking up its series development department in a way that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable-by creating separate teams for in-house and outside production.
In the shakeup, one set of NBC executives has been tapped to handle projects generated by corporate cousin NBC Universal Television Studio, while another group of development executives will be responsible for projects generated by outside companies.
NBC is familiar with the concept of establishing competing teams of executives to do essentially the same thing: develop new shows that will interest audiences. The network previously operated a team system-albeit without the in-house and outside production company delineations-but abandoned it in the late 1990s.
NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said he is looking forward to creating shows under the new system.
“I applaud any effort to play with traditional formulas,” he said. “Periodically it is good to shake things up and play with the chemistry.”
Mr. Reilly, who worked under the previous team system in his first stint with the network, considered himself a proponent of teams until he left the network and found himself pitching development ideas back to NBC.
“It wasn’t divided along genres,” he said. “For purposes of clarity through the system and for authorship, it’s important to have at least some clear delineation.”
Within each team will be separate comedy and drama divisions, which Mr. Reilly said will allow harried development executives “to thin out the amount of product on their plate and try to dedicate more pipelines into the network, creating a little bit more of a free-market system.”
The divide between in-house and outside suppliers in the new team system raises the question of whether executives supervising in-house production will be the chosen favorites, while the executives dealing with outside pitches get the short end of the development stick.
Mr. Reilly rejected that scenario out of hand.
“We want to own the best content we can,” he said. “The healthiest signal I can send is we want hits from everywhere.”
And even if it seems counterintuitive, Mr. Reilly said, the new system may give outside suppliers a better shot at getting on NBC than they had before, because their dedicated set of executives won’t be concerned that something isn’t network-owned.
“The challenge for outside suppliers is coming in and fighting that agenda [where] they realize they are pushed away from the trough a little [by] network-owned product,” he said. “What I like about this new system is I have new executives who don’t have that agenda at all on their mind. Their job is to succeed with outside product.”
One of the bigger challenges will be deciding which team is responsible when there is an NBC Universal/outside supplier co-production, a situation creative producers in particular hate, because it doubles the number of notes from the suits.
“I think nothing gives executives worse names,” Mr. Reilly said of the overproduction of executive notes to producers. But Mr. Reilly said any network-versus-studio ownership issues that need to be sorted out will be his responsibility.
“I’ll juggle the corporate agendas,” he said. “I want my executives completely, purely, fighting for their projects.”