NBC News Developing Primetime Hour Hosted by Brian Williams

Brian Williams
Brian Williams
 Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

NBC is developing a weekly newsmagazine to be hosted by Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

The news comes as NBC entertainment is set to unveil its fall slate Sunday and make its pitch to advertisers in a presentation Monday in New York. It will be the network’s first upfront presentation since the merger with Comcast this year and Bob Greenblatt’s inaugural slate as NBC entertainment chief.

The NBC News hour is a contender for the fall schedule, but it’s unlikely to be a major part of the network’s presentation because the show is still in early stages of development. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that NBC has already handed out several series orders including comedies Whitney and Up All Night, the latter starring Christina Applegate; the drama Prime Suspect; and the Steven Spielberg musical Smash.

A newsmagazine is an economical way for the ratings-challenged NBC to fill an hour of primetime. But it is also a major endorsement of the network’s news division from NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. An NBC News spokesperson declined to comment on a Williams-hosted newsmagazine except to say, “We always have and always will be looking for opportunities to showcase the strengths and the talent of NBC News.”

Last year, NBC News executives considered super-sizing NBC Nightly News to an hour but abandoned the idea after it proved too difficult to get affiliates onboard. With the exception of 60 Minutes, all of the broadcast newsmagazines air on Friday or Saturday, nights the networks’ entertainment divisions have somewhat abandoned. NBC News has Dateline on Fridays, and that program expands to fill schedule holes and as news warrants. ABC News’ 20/20 also airs on Friday and CBS News has 48 Hour Mystery on Saturdays. (ABC traditionally airs more news in the summer months; this summer, late-night newsmagazine Nightline will get 13 primetime hours.)

But the new NBC News hour is said to be a contender for a berth in the early part of the week. And sources say that it will have a newsier focus and eschew true crime -- a staple of the current crop of broadcast newsmagazines. NBC News insiders are describing it as "hard news with attitude."

For his part, Williams, a familiar presence on the nighttime talk show circuit, has become a highly visible ambassador of not just the news division but  the network overall, hosting Saturday Night Live and making cameo appearances on 30 Rock. His newscast has been atop the evening news ratings for 86 consecutive weeks. Meanwhile NBC’s entertainment division has been stuck in the ratings basement for years.

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