Q&A: Bob Greenblatt

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NBC's new entertainment chairman talks about the network's turnaround -- and defends The Playboy Club.

How long will it take to turn NBC around?

I didn't come here under the guise that it could be turned around quickly. Steve Burke has been very vocal about it, saying it could take four to five years. What does "turn around" even mean? Breaking even as opposed to losing money? A lot of things have to be rebuilt, and we need time to try
some things and fail and rethink.

How did you find morale at the network when you arrived?

There had been a year of uncertainty as the regulatory process [dragged on], following several years of management changes every 18 months and lots of shifts in philosophy and personnel. Any kind of change brings even more of that, and this was a seismic change. [But] I didn't encounter people with their heads down and shoulders slumped and overly depressed or anything. I think by the time I got here in January and they started to meet Steve Burke and Brian Roberts, there was a pretty quick sense of, "Well, this could be good; this could be just what the doctor ordered."

What's the future of the broadcasting model?

It's cliche, but if we make hits and we own some of them, there's a really viable business to build. Then over the hill, the cavalry is coming with retrans [fees], which we look at as found money.

What are your expectations for the upcoming show Smash?

I don't honestly have a cohesive answer. I just think it's exciting and it taps into a little of that wish fulfillment that some of these music reality shows tap into. … I just go with my instincts, and I think the audience is ready for something different.

What's your response to the NBC affiliate in Utah saying that it won't broadcast The Playboy Club this fall because the show is inconsistent with the network's brand?

They have to do what they have to do. If I thought it was inappropriate to the brand, I wouldn't put it on. This affiliate does not [carry] SNL. It's their prerogative to make decisions for their market. We feel confident this is the only place reacting like this.            

 

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