NBC's execs: Let's make a deal

Focus is on ad integration, digital plays at upfront

On the Culver City set of their hit game show "Deal or No Deal," NBC brass made a two-hour pitch to media buyers Thursday on why advertising on NBC is a good deal.

Taking center stage this year was integrating advertisers' brands into NBC's content on TV and its extensions in the digital world.

More than half of NBC's presentation was devoted to the marketing opportunities presented by the network's TV 360 broadband initiative that includes streaming, social networking and special features accompanying NBC's series on NBC.com.

"Television as we know it has changed forever," said Jeff Gaspin, president of NBC Universal Cable and Digital Content.

NBC has been the most aggressive among the broadcast networks in its expansion into the digital universe, and ad buyers, in town this week to get an early glimpse at broadcast networks' development for next season, have taken notice.

"It was very interesting," OMD's John Hunt said. "They were very focused on new media, more so than the other networks."

In his remarks, NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly reiterated his faith that NBC, which is enjoying success with "Heroes," "The Office," "My Name Is Earl" and "Deal," is a step away from again becoming the top broadcast network.

"We need one to two shows to put us over the top, and I believe they are on our development slate this year," he said.

Reilly also made another passionate pitch for critically praised but struggling new series "30 Rock," which was prominently featured in clips throughout the presentation, and "Friday Night Lights."

"Nothing is guaranteed, and the ratings are low, but I can't help but believe that '30 Rock' and 'Friday Night Lights' have the potential to be 'St. Elsewhere' and 'Cheers,' " he said.

On the reality side, Reilly announced "Age of Love," a dating game series to be hosted by actor Mark Consuelos. Details of the project, from 3 Ball Prods., are being kept under wraps.

Of all the shows presented to the audience, the unscripted "The Real Wedding Crashers," slated to premiere in late April, drew the strongest applause.

Of the clips from the NBC's scripted 2006-07 pilots that have started production, a few got stars in ad buyers' notebooks.

Marlowe Sidney of Initiative said she loved the dramedy "Lipstick Jungle" and NBC's idea to tie one of the central character's job as a magazine editor to launching a real online magazine on NBC.com.

Also getting high marks from her was the drama "Journeyman." Sidney also said she sees potential in the chemistry between Natasha Richardson and Molly Shannon, the stars of comedy "The Mastersons of Manhattan," which is yet to begin production.

"They have momentum and don't have a lot of holes on the schedule to fill. They are in good shape," she said.
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