NBC's Bob Greenblatt Talks Netflix Mega-Deals, Comcast-Fox Play and 'This Is Us'

Art Streiber/NBC
Bob Greenblatt

"For the right people, we would have to be in that game," Bob Greenblatt told the Banff World Media Festival after big TV creator pay days for Greg Berlanti, Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.

For those who finds themselves going through a lot of tissues watching popular NBC shows like This Is Us or World of Dance, blame NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt.

The network's primetime cry-fest is down to Greenblatt, as he tells it, taking the American TV network from fourth to first by keeping TV audiences on the edge of their seats watching new shows that break rules and find new creative voices. "It's really the only way you end up with a Dexter or This Is Us, something that's completely new and inspiring," he told the Banff World Media Festival during a keynote address.

"There's so many things to watch, movies and television shows, that you have to keep surprising the audience. You can do it in gimmicky ways — hopefully this isn't gimmicky, and comes from a real place — but this show will continue to surprise," Greenblatt added about This Is Us, the emotional family drama headed to its third season.

But Greenblatt and fellow network TV bosses are seeing their own eyes water up over a fast-changing business increasingly driven by time-shifted viewing, digital revenue and nine-figure overall deals for prolific TV creators like Greg Berlanti, Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.

"We all know Netflix is out to own the universe, and so they will make these deals, and Greg, Shonda and Ryan are three of the greatest success stories we've had in the business," the exec observed. But is Greenblatt prepared to offer a fat extension deal to Dick Wolf or another NBC TV creator to keep them at his studio?

"Dick Wolf has made nine figures at our network," Greenblatt joked, before admitting that NBC, after all, might have to pay big dollars to prolific producers to keep them on side. "For the right people, we would have to be in that game," he said.

NBC will also look at deals for money-hungry producers one by one. "I'm sure at a certain point we'll have to be ultra-competitive. But I'm not sure our business will depend on having some of those two or three big [producer] deals," Greenblatt insisted.

The NBC Entertainment boss also discussed current industry consolidation, which may include NBCUniversal parent Comcast and its potential $31 billion deal for European pay TV giant Sky, and an even bigger anticipated play for 21st Century Fox assets to secure international reach and revenue abroad. "Whether Fox comes into the ecosystem, or Sky, we'll be one of the three or four biggest media companies in the world," Greenblatt said.

But NBCUniversal, however it plays its hand against Disney for Fox, will still be smaller than emerging internet titans. "Now there are digital companies that are even bigger than our company. So we're competing not only with ourselves and each other in the media space, but with Apple, Google and Netflix. So it's really important to have an enormous scale and an international reach. That's exactly what Comcast is going through, and Disney and AT&T and Time Warner," Greenblatt said.

The Banff World Media Festival continues through Wednesday.