Peacock slate remains intact
EmptyNBC has opted to keep all of its commissioned scripts, bucking the trend set by CBS, Fox and the CW, which significantly trimmed their development slates during the past few days, citing the effect of the writers strike.
"Our goal has been to be a very writer-friendly network," NBC executive vp Teri Weinberg said. "We have faith in the writers with whom we made deals, and we want to give them the opportunity to deliver their scripts."
The vast majority of terminated projects at CBS, Fox and the CW had not been delivered to the networks. The nets' decision to release them, which would save each as much as a few million dollars, was done mainly based on script outlines.
NBC's position to stick with its prestrike development slate is shared by its main supplier, Universal Media Studios.
"It's been a very difficult and painful time for everybody," UMS president Katherine Pope said. "We want to retain the scripts we've bought as we feel like at this point no one knows where the next hit will come from."
NBC's decision comes on the heels of a series of comments made by NBC Universal president and CEO Jeff Zucker in London, where he gave strong indications that the network is ready to scrap the traditional pilot season and only produce one to two pilots a year as well as drop the network's glitzy upfront presentation.
Weinberg said NBC's brass is "not going to put a number" on how many pilots it will shoot, adding that she and NBC programming chief Ben Silverman have pushed through "a straight-to-series strategy that gives us an opportunity to look at subsequent scripts and nurture material."
Since Silverman and Weinberg joined NBC in June, the network has been aggressive in ordering projects straight to series with the Tom Fontana drama "The Philanthropist," the anthology series "Fear Itself" and the action-adventure "Robinson Crusoe."
Faced with the possibility of an abbreviated, postponed or obliterated pilot season because of the strike, NBC had been actively exploring new development strategies the past few months, including forgoing pilots and going straight to series as well as borrowing from the cable development model.
Once made for $3.5 million, drama pilots now hover above the $5 million mark — going as high as more than $10 million — with higher production values and bigger-name talent behind and in front of the camera.
What's more, network executives have complained that the pilots rarely represent what the series will be.
Unlike the broadcast networks, which order about 20-30 pilots each season, major cable networks order four to five, spending more time in the script stage and often ordering backup scripts before picking up a pilot to series.
Although NBC's approach is close to the cable development model, Pope indicated that the network and its sister studio won't be adhering to a singular strategy.
"We're looking at everything," she said. "We're trying not to have a blanket approach but instead develop a specific approach for each project," she said.
Meanwhile, more details emerged Wednesday on the pilot scripts released the day before by Fox and the CW.
The list of about two dozen projects terminated by Fox is said to include a drama from writer Dan Connolly, 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based producers Marty Adelstein and Michael Thorn; a dramedy from British writer Anthony Horowitz, Sony Pictures TV and Darren Star Prods.; a drama from the writing duo of Stuart Zicherman and Raven Metzner and Warner Bros. TV; a drama from AnaLisa LaBianco and Fox TV Studios; and drama projects from writers Keith Eisner, Erik Bork, Jeff Eastin and the writer-director team of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Dinner.
On the half-hour side, Fox released the animated comedy "Superzeroes," from Warner Bros. TV and Good Humor, and Gail Gilchriest's multicamera comedy "Everyone's Got One," from WBTV and the Jinks/Cohen Co.
The CW's dozen terminated scripts are said to include Jared Stern's single-camera comedy "Human Nature" from WBTV and producer David Janollari as well as projects from writers Diane Ruggiero and Jacob Epstein.