Reilly Reups as NBC Starts to Turn the Corner

Mar 5, 2007  •  Post A Comment

With NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly’s contract renewed with the network, the executive said his mandate is to continue rebuilding the network’s ratings performance.

“What this is really about is finishing what we started with the rebuild,” Mr. Reilly said. “Some of the stuff is beginning to stitch into a story, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, and until we have more breadth across the week, it will be hard to get more truly empirical evidence to say we’ve turned this place around.”

NBC announced last week that Mr. Reilly had signed a multiyear agreement to continue in the position he’s held for the past three years, putting an end to long-running speculation about his future at the network.

This season, Mr. Reilly has led NBC to a modest ratings resurgence. Though ranked fourth among the major broadcasters, NBC is up 6 percent among adults 18 to 49, making it the only major network showing season-to-date gains.

Mr. Reilly has struggled to elevate ratings at NBC, which fell into a slump after years of dominance with shows such as “Friends” and “Seinfeld.”

Mr. Reilly’s new commitment to NBC comes weeks after a major executive restructuring at NBC Universal that put him under a new boss, Marc Graboff, who as president of NBC Universal Television, West Coast, has oversight of the entertainment division.

Mr. Graboff has said Mr. Reilly will continue to enjoy a high degree of creative freedom, a promise that was accompanied by an announcement that advertisers will be brought into the series development process.

Mr. Reilly said he is comfortable on both counts.

“I don’t think I could have more creative freedom than I could have had over the last few years,” he said. “I just finished two meetings with major advertisers and none want to monkey around with the [creative] process. We’re all trying to figure out how to increase that bond with the audience.”

Mr. Reilly said the network plans to continue investing heavily in developing talent, even after last fall’s slate of new series such as “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” prompted criticisms that NBC is overspending.

“Financially, it’s challenging,” Mr. Reilly said. “[But] we will continue to make top talent deals and will continue to swing for the fences with shows like `Heroes’ and do what it takes.”

Being Patient

This season he has stuck by two ratings-challenged critical favorites, “Friday Night Lights” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”

Mr. Reilly said he’s waiting to see what happens with new series “The Black Donnellys” before making a decision on when “Studio” will return to the schedule.

Mr. Reilly’s responsibilities continue to include prime time-including alternative, specials and long-form programs-late-night and daytime programming. He also leads show development, as well as scheduling and strategic planning for the network.

Mr. Reilly, who began his career at NBC almost 19 years ago, was president of entertainment at FX before he returned to NBC in 2003 as president of prime-time development. He took over as president of NBC Entertainment in 2004.