Graboff: NBC Changes, Cutbacks Are Meant to Streamline Organization

Dec 8, 2008  •  Post A Comment

NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Marc Graboff on Monday said NBC’s executive massacre is an attempt “to right-size and realign our organization.”
“We’re eliminating layers of bureaucracy and we’re eliminating multiple layers of executives,” he added.
The company today officially announced several executive changes that have been in the offing for days or, in some cases, weeks.
It did not comment on widespread reports that half a dozen veteran NBC executives were being shown the door as part of the reorganization. Universal Media Studios drama chief Elisa Roth, studio comedy head Erin Gough Wehrenberg, NBC drama chief Katie O’Connell, NBC current programming boss Ted Frank and No. 2 reality executive Libby Hansen may all be leaving, according to several industry insiders.
As for the official changes, Angela Bromstad will take over as president of prime-time entertainment, overseeing a combined network-studio operation. Paul Telegdy, most recently at BBC America Worldwide America, will take over as executive VP of alternative programming and also will lead a production and development team.
Both executives will report to Mr. Graboff and NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman.
Mr. Graboff, speaking during a conference call with reporters, said that while there were financial motivations to NBC’s actions, the company also made the changes for creative purposes.
Under the new structure, “The shows and the writers with whom we work are not going to get noted to death,” he said. “There aren’t going to be multiple executives in every meeting. We want to develop a streamlined approach.”
Mr. Graboff later explained that networks and studios “spend a ton of time and effort watering down” producers’ visions. “We need to let it live or die on its own.”
The combined studio-network operation under Ms. Bromstad will have comedy and drama departments, but no separate unit devoted to current programs.
Ms. Bromstad and Mr. Graboff also stressed that, contrary to some reports, NBC would still be open to pitches from non-aligned studios and that Universal Media Studios would continue to selectively produce programming for networks not owned by NBC Universal.
“The doors are still wide open,” Mr. Graboff said.
The departure of former UMS chief Katherine Pope and the return of Ms. Bromstad represents a complete reversal of NBC’s decision-making in May 2007. At that time, the company essentially removed Ms. Bromstad and sent her to London in order to keep Ms. Pope within the organization. It now has fired Ms. Pope and given Ms. Bromstad an even more powerful position than the one she had before she went overseas.
Mr. Graboff expressed no regrets.
The previous promotion of Ms. Pope “was not a mistake,” he told TelevisionWeek. “She’s an incredibly talented executive and has a tremendous future.”
Likewise, Ms. Bromstad said she was glad to have spent time in London and said that she never lost contact with Mr. Silverman and Mr. Graboff.
As for the overall restructuring, Mr. Graboff said all the broadcast networks will be forced to make more changes in the coming months.
“The bloat that has come to our business—you could live with that in the days of huge annual revenue increases,” he said. “Those days are over. Every network has these huge infrastructures that are trying to serve declining audiences.”
Other highlights of NBC’s conversation with reporters:
—Mr. Silverman expressed regret over NBC’s failure to develop any new hits this fall. “We would have liked all these shows to be stronger,” he said. “I’m personally disappointed they didn’t deliver bigger audiences. But we need to be patient.”
—Ms. Bromstad said NBC wasn’t making any cuts to development budgets, but Mr. Silverman later confirmed that all NBC shows have been asked to slice a percentage of their operating budgets.
—Mr. Silverman ducked a question about whether he planned to stay with NBC once his contract expires in June. “I am so focused on my job,” he said. “I’m focused every day.”


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