NBC Confirms Development of Brian Williams-Led Newsmagazine

By Alex Weprin 

This morning NBC will hold its annual upfront presentation to advertisers, media buyers and the press. The purpose is to preview the network’s upcoming Fall and mid-season schedule, including a bevy of new programs.

Yesterday, in preparation for the presentation, NBC held a press conference, with NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt responding to questions from reporters.

Greenblatt confirmed that NBC was developing a primetime newsmagzine hosted by Brian Williams, though not surprisingly it has not been scheduled yet.

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Marisa Guthrie was at the press conference:

It will be a multi-topic newsmagazine, a departure of sorts for the genre, which with the exception of CBS’ 60 Minutes has lately hewed more toward single topic crime stories. NBC News insiders describe the Williams hour as “hard news with attitude.”

“First and foremost [Williams] is a newsman,” said Greenblatt. “But at the same time he has a really fun personality that I think can enliven a newsmagazine show [in a way] he can’t do on the evening news.”

Asked why the network would want to take a chance in a “struggling” genre, Greenblatt said: “I’d love to struggle to the degree 60 Minutes is struggling.”

Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein adds that the program is likely to serve as filler, or as a backup, in case some of NBC’s high-priced entertainment options flop.

Highminded as launching a news program sounds, the sad truth is that there’s no hit potential and that’s the point of the TV business: generating hits. A news program is a pure punt, a gesture suggesting the network is going to hedge its bets and save up to spend elsewhere.