Mr. Reilly didn't just tweak that one time slot, however. In an unprecedented move, he shifted nine shows around the grid. "In the light of day, let's realign to see what seems to make the most sense," he said, explaining the rationale for his decisions. (See full fall schedule here.)
Aaron Sorkin's promising drama, "Studio 60," will now air at 10 p.m. on Monday, hopefully benefiting from frequent promotions during "Sunday Night Football," while the hit game show "Deal or No Deal" fills the 9 p.m. Thursday slot.
Two significant factors prompted NBC's change of schedule: ABC's decision to move its hit Sunday night drama "Grey's Anatomy" to Thursday nights at 9 p.m. and Fox's decision to leave "House" in its same time slot on Tuesday at 9 p.m., which was a surprise. NBC had scheduled another new series for 9 p.m., "Kidnapped," but with "House" staying put the network yanked the rookie show for veteran "Law & Order: SVU." "Medium," which had been given the Monday at 10 p.m. slot originally, will now move to Sunday at 10 p.m., but not until the end of football season. "Scrubs" is also in reserve as a mid-season replacement.
Not prompted by advertisers
Advertiser reaction, he said, played no part in his decisions; rather it was the other networks' schedules and the rival pilots he had watched. "The marketplace hasn't moved yet, so no one placed any bets," Mr. Reilly said on a phone call with press this afternoon.
"We are countering [ABC's] 'Grey's Anatomy' with one of our hottest new shows, 'Deal or No Deal.' This show has a hot trajectory and will be resting all summer and it will allow us to keep the circulation up all night," Mr. Reilly said. The changes are in line with NBC's philosophy for next season, he said: "We are right on the bull's-eye for our brand."
Not an exact fit
Commenting on the Thursday night reshuffle, Mr. Reilly said, "In a perfect world I'd like to go with a comedy block, but to put four comedies on would be doing a disservice to comedies that I really like: '30 Rock' or '20 Good Year' or 'Scrubs.' ["Deal or No Deal"] is an alternative and people love it. Does it exactly fit? Is it what I'd ideally like to do? No, but it's the reality of where we are."
Mr. Reilly said he had considered moving "The Apprentice" back to a Thursday night slot but decided to let the show catch its breath. "Given where 'Deal' is in its lifecycle, it felt like it had a better chance to generate some audience. We are making 'The Apprentice' a once-a-year event. We can relaunch it and get the heat back on the show rather than have it do battle duty."
The changes may also work to slow down the upfront marketplace even further, given that agency research chiefs will have to go back to the drawing board to come up with program estimates that play in to pricing negotiations and give clients guidelines for each network's performance next season.