Industry backs Robert Greenblatt to run NBC

Strong belief that 'beloved' exec can lead turnaround

Robert Greenblatt is not running NBC -- yet -- but the prospect of the former Showtime entertainment president taking command of the network has the creative community buzzing with anticipation.

Having quit Showtime during the summer after spending seven years turning around the premium channel with a roster of critical and commercial hits including "Weeds" and "Dexter," industry rumblings continue that Greenblatt is quietly preparing to take some kind of overseer role at the troubled broadcaster once NBC Universal's merger with Comcast is complete.

Combined with NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker announcing he's stepping down and NBC's commitment to airing quality scripted programming this year, dealmakers are more optimistic about the Peacock's prospects.

"It's spectacular," Debbee Klein, a TV agent at Paradigm, said about the possibility of Comcast choosing Greenblatt. "They haven't had an executive of his stature since Grant Tinker and Brandon Tartikoff. The writing community would make NBC a must-stop destination if he's at the helm."

Dealmakers note that not only did Greenblatt make his perpetual second-place premium cable network a true rival to HBO, but he also had similarly smart instincts as a programming executive during his eight years at Fox during the 1990s. There, he helped develop such groundbreaking shows "90210" and "Melrose Place," lighter soaps that suggest Greenblatt's taste cannot be simply pegged to the darker critical favorites he greenlighted at Showtime.

"He's not just a guy who does one thing well," Klein said. "He's patient and has a very keen sense of material. He knows how to work with writers without stepping on their voice. Very few executives have that ability, such as [CBS entertainment president] Nina Tassler."

An insider at another talent agency dubbed Greenblatt "the opposite of Zucker. Greenblatt manages for creativity, not for margins," the source said. "He's about the artistry, not the budget. He has a consistent track record, and he takes risks. He has both a business and a creative track record; very few people have both."

A dealmaker at another agency agreed, saying Greenblatt is "beloved in the community."

"He's had three jobs, and he's killed it at every one of them," the agent said. "He's all about what's on the page. He's not a starf***er. I hope he gets the -- I hope he takes the job."

How Greenblatt will fit into NBC's leadership isn't clear, though it is likely that current programming chiefs Angela Bromstad and Paul Telegdy would report in to him. But whether he would have a straight line to incoming NBC Uni CEO Steve Burke or be tucked under NBC's current No. 1 exec, Jeff Gaspin, who also has oversight over NBC Uni's cable nets, is a big question.

Greenblatt's arrival could mean that Gaspin and/or Bromstad would be out. As overseer of unscripted, Telegdy might have more traction given that the genre is not Greenblatt's specialty, though he might have someone else in mind for the job who is more in line with his taste.

All such hiring hopes could be dashed, however, if the Greenblatt rumors turn out to be just that. He has denied having spoken to Comcast about a job. And while top Hollywood insiders whisper about the executive potentially running one of the country's most powerful media companies, Greenblatt is in Nashville producing a theater tour of "9 to 5: The Musical." He could not be reached for comment.

Andrew Wallenstein contributed to this report.
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