NBC Uni: Pilots Be Gone

NBC Universal Chief Jeff Zucker this week reaffirmed his intention to scrap the usual TV pilot development model.

During a keynote speech Tuesday at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention in Las Vegas, Zucker reportedly said NBC will do five or six pilots a year, rather than three or four times that many; and take more series straight to air.

Zucker said pilots can cost up to $10 million, and never get so far as a debut on TV. Reporters at the show also said Zucker once again hinted that he might scrap the big upfront sales events in favor of a year-around model. He talked about ditching pilots and scaling back the upfront events last week during a worldwide employee videoconference last week, according to published reports.

The Hollywood writers’ strike, which has worn on for three months, gave Zucker an opening to change long-standing television business models because few, if any, pilots were produced for February sweeps. NBC was the sole network to proceed with projects in development, however; while CBS, Fox and The CW dropped the ax.

Last week, TelevisionBroadcast.com reported that local broadcast stations were beginning to feel the pinch of the writers' strike. Jeffrey Ulrich, local sales manager at CBS affiliate WGCL in Atlanta, says the strike will have a far-reaching impact on ad sales.

“It’s imperative that local advertising executives have easy access to the last three years of both ratings and programming info,” he writes.