Austin Film Festival: NBC's Jennifer Salke Says Amid Negative Politics, Audiences Are Looking for Positive Programming

Courtesy of Mitchell Haaseth/NBC
Jennifer Salke

The exec pointed to the success of the new series 'This Is Us' as evidence of her theory.

The current negative political climate is paving the way for TV shows to succeed when they present a more positive worldview, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke said Thursday during an appearance at the Austin Film Festival.

Taking part in a conversation that was part of the fest’s opening-day lineup, the exec explained, “I think the current climate is so fraught with negativity and peril that people just want to enjoy something that feels smart, sophisticated, but has a warmth to it and makes them feel like they want to share it.”

Salke said that it was those qualities that attracted her to NBC’s freshman series This Is Us and The Good Place.

This Is Us was a spec script that was sent to the community, so everyone was reading it at the same time,” she said of how the drama series came to the network, adding only somewhat jokingly, “I had to have it. I felt like if I didn’t have it, I would honestly quit my job.”

Salke credits the show’s success to its relatability, which she calls “the human factor.” “I think I actually said, 'This is a show that could be on the cover of Time magazine.' It captures the hearts and minds of people,” she said.

Positivity isn’t the only thing audiences are seeking out, the exec added. “Diversity is huge — diverse characters, diverse points of view. No more groups of white friends, and white families — nobody has any tolerance for that, frankly, of any age,” she said.

Salke advised the writers and budding filmmakers in the audience to seek out the human factor in their work. She also recommended “thinking about what is not currently out there” in order to get more diverse stories.

“That’s the good news about TV. Things are changing,” said Salke. 

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