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Peacock Spreads Producing Wings

Apr 27, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Less than a year after its formation, NBC News’ Peacock Productions is growing like Topsy and thinking big, globally and even alternatively.
Peacock Productions produces “Dateline NBC” for NBC prime time and more than 50 hours annually for MSNBC. It also has programming commitments for series and specials to Discovery, A&E, truTV and other clients.
The unit’s shows are seen in more than 250 territories. Most of the 10 titles in its international catalog are culled from fact-based content Peacock produced for the Sci Fi Channel and crime content it produced for MSNBC. Peacock is repackaging “Dateline NBC’s” “Predator” series for five territories, with two or three more expected to be added soon.
Perhaps nothing exemplifies what Peacock Productions Senior VP Sharon Scott describes as the “explosive growth” the unit has experienced so much as a glance at the commitments it picked up in the recent round of cable network upfronts. Some came from inside the NBC Universal family, but more did not.
Peacock is developing:
– “Donatella,” a series about New York restaurateur Donatella Arpaia, for NBC Universal’s Bravo.
– “Mystery of the Crystal Skulls,” a special inspired by this summer’s feature film release “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” for NBCU’s Sci Fi Channel. “Weekend Today” co-anchor Lester Holt will host.
– “Eco-Trip: The Real Cost of Living,” a series about the carbon footprint of everyday products, for Sundance, the cable channel in which NBC has a 55% ownership stake and CBS a 35% stake. Sundance is said to be up for sale, with Cablevision emerging as the leading bidder late last week, according to published reports.
– “Unreported,” an investigative series for Viacom’s BET that will be designed as a media reality check for African American viewers, focusing on cases about missing and falsely accused people. It’s scheduled to premiere next year. Talent is still to be decided.
– Specials for the assorted Discovery Networks.
– More installments of “Today Show Tips” on DIY, which already ordered 26 episodes co-hosted by “Today’s” Natalie Morales and DIY’s Amy Matthews and seen on the cable channel Tuesdays and Thursdays. The number of new episodes hinges on core segments provided by “Today.” Ms. Scott said Peacock is aiming for 13 more episodes.
NBC News formed Peacock Productions last summer as a souped-up version of the in-house unit, not unlike the smaller counterparts at ABC News and CBS News, which produces network news-style programming for NBCU’s MSNBC and other programming outlets.
However, Peacock was envisioned as a nonfiction production company that would do more than mine and amortize NBC News programming and archives and personalities for series and one-off specials that can serve as back-door pilots. The genres the unit will explore include the so-called alternative programming that has been so much in demand by programming outlets.
“The genre we haven’t tapped that we probably should is competitive reality,” Ms. Scott said. “That’s something that would be fun to do.”
The appointment of “Dateline NBC” managing editor Aretha Marshall as vice president of casting and talent development for Peacock is expanding the unit’s strategic options.
Among the alternative programming possibilities are docusoaps, docudramas and docureality, which Ms. Scott said are “all about casting.”
Ms. Scott declined to offer specifics or even percentages about how big a revenue stream Peacock Productions has become.
“We’re very big, but we still have a lot of work to do to be as big as we want to be,” she said.

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