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NBC Adds 12 Shows in First Season Under Comcast Ownership

NBC, introducing its first prime-time schedule under Comcast Corp., will add 12 new shows including the police drama “Prime Suspect” featuring Maria Bello, in a bid to climb out of fourth place in audience ratings.

The lineup will include “The Playboy Club” from producer Brian Grazer, and the Lorne Michaels comedy “Up all Night,” NBC said yesterday in a statement. “Smash,” a musical drama about Broadway theater, and “Free Agents” with John Enbom were also picked up. Donald Trump, at an NBC presentation in New York today, said he won’t seek the U.S. presidency and will continue to host “Celebrity Apprentice.”

The network and its stations are under-performing rivals by “many hundreds of millions of dollars,” Stephen Burke, NBC Universal’s chief executive officer, said on May 4. Comcast will spend $200 million more than last year, Burke said, to bolster an NBC prime-time schedule that averages the fewest viewers ages 18 to 49, a group sought by advertisers, and the smallest audience of the big four U.S. broadcast networks.

“NBC is still behind the curve,” David Bank, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York, said in an interview ahead of the schedule announcement. “Fortunately, Comcast is willing to invest in NBC. They’ve made NBC a very public priority.”

NBC is also adding the dramas “Awake,” “Grimm” and “The Firm,” and the comedies “Whitney,” “Are You There, Vodka, It’s Me, Chelsea,” “Best Friends Forever” and “Bent.’

Leno Experiment

Last year’s schedule contained five new comedies and seven dramas following the failed experiment of airing an hourlong 10 p.m. talk show five nights a week hosted by Jay Leno. Shows including “Chase,” from “Pirates of the Caribbean” producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and “Undercovers,” from “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams, didn’t last.

Comcast, based in Philadelphia, acquired control of NBC Universal from Fairfield, Connecticut-based General Electric Co. in January and named Greenblatt, former president of Showtime Entertainment, to oversee development of new dramas and comedies. Greenblatt inherited a schedule with one top-20 show, “Harry’s Law” starring Kathy Bates.

Comcast, the biggest U.S. cable operator, fell 24 cents to $24.89 at 1:26 p.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares had climbed 14 percent this year.

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