NBC Adds 5 Comedies, 7 Dramas to Refresh Network Schedule

NBC, the U.S. broadcast network with the smallest prime-time audience, added five new comedies and seven dramas to rebuild its schedule following the failed experiment with Jay Leno’s talk show at 10 p.m.

The lineup will include shows from J.J. Abrams, Jerry Bruckheimer and David E. Kelley, NBC said yesterday in a statement. “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” from producer Dick Wolf, was picked up as “Law & Order” was canceled, and the comedies “Outsourced” and “Love Bites” were added.

NBC has made an about-face, returning to scripted programs after handing one-third of its prime-time schedule to comedian Leno. He returned to late-night in March. The network, part of General Electric Co.’s entertainment division, also canceled the science fiction drama “Heroes” as it tries to rise from third place among viewers ages 18 to 49, the group advertisers covet.

“It’s a 180-degrees different direction than last year,” Brad Adgate, research director at New York advertising agency Horizon Media, said in an interview. “They have some big names in terms of producers.”

CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and News Corp.’s Fox will also present their schedules this week as network executives meet with their biggest advertisers ahead of the TV season that starts in September.

Ad sales during the so-called upfronts may jump 20 percent to $8.26 billion this year from 2009, when companies cut marketing budgets during the recession, according to Anthony DiClemente, an analyst at Barclays Capital in New York.

‘Building on Progress’

NBC’s average prime-time audience, while the smallest among the major networks, has increased 5.8 percent to 8.36 million this TV season, according to data from Nielsen Co. Among viewers ages 18 to 49, it is down 3.8 percent to 3.58 million.

The midseason replacement “Parenthood,” which started after the Winter Olympics, has helped to limit the audience losses.

“We’re unveiling a schedule that builds on the progress we’ve made since the Olympics,” Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, said on a conference call.

Monday and Wednesday nights will be all-drama, and Thursday, anchored by “The Office” and “30 Rock,” will have five comedies.

“Chase,” from “Pirates of the Caribbean” producer Bruckheimer, features Kelli Giddish as a U.S. marshal tracking down fugitives and will run on Mondays at 10 p.m. “Undercovers,” from “Lost” creator Abrams, joins the new “Law & Order: Los Angeles” and returning “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” on Wednesdays, starting at 8 p.m. “Harry’s Law,” from “Boston Legal” creator Kelley, stars Kathy Bates as a lawyer who starts a practice in a run-down shoe store. It will begin later in the season.

‘Proven Hitmakers’

“We wanted shows from proven hitmakers to be part of the portfolio and final lineup,” Gaspin said in an interview. He said he will pitch the network to ad buyers this week by saying, “we think we have a lot of potential and we want you to be part of our schedule.”

The network decided in January to shut down Leno’s one-hour talk show after affiliates complained low ratings were harming their local newscasts. He returned to his old “Tonight Show” spot, replacing Conan O’Brien, who will go to Time Warner Inc.’s TBS on cable.

NBC produced 20 pilots for the coming season, double last year’s number and the most since 2003.

Other new dramas include police series “The Cape,” the legal show “Outlaw,” and “The Event,” a thriller involving the biggest cover-up in U.S. history.

Comedies

New comedies include “Outsourced,” about an American running a call center in India, and “Love Bites,” a one-hour comedy following three loosely connected stories about love, marriage and dating. “Friends with Benefits,” from Brian Grazer’s Imagine Television studio, follows a group of dating 20-year-olds.

Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable operator, plans to take control of New York-based NBC Universal through a venture with Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE, whose ownership will drop below 50 percent from the current 80 percent.

GE lost 8 cents to $17.56 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Comcast, based in Philadelphia, gained 50 cents to $18.10 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

NBC FALL 2010 SCHEDULE
(New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET)

MONDAY
8 p.m.    Chuck
9 p.m.    THE EVENT
10 p.m.   CHASE

TUESDAY
8 p.m.    The Biggest Loser
10 p.m.   Parenthood

WEDNESDAY
8 p.m.    UNDERCOVERS
9 p.m.    Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
10 p.m.   LAW & ORDER: LOS ANGELES

THURSDAY
8 p.m.    Community
8:30 p.m. 30 Rock
9 p.m.    The Office
9:30 p.m. OUTSOURCED
10 p.m.   LOVE BITES

FRIDAY
8 p.m.    Who Do You Think You Are?/SCHOOL PRIDE
9 p.m.    Dateline NBC
10        OUTLAW

SATURDAY
Encore programming

SUNDAY
7 p.m.    Football Night in America
8:15 p.m. NBC Sunday Night Football


SUNDAY (beginning March 2011)
7 p.m.    Dateline NBC
8 p.m.    Minute to Win It
9 p.m.    The Celebrity Apprentice

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

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