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Predicts Little Change for 4th Place Network

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NEW YORK ( -- NBC is not likely to see any change in its slack ratings performance this year, the broadcast network's entertainment president, Kevin Reilly, said.
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Speaking a the Television Critics Association’s biannual gathering at the Beverly Hills Hilton, Mr. Reilly told the audience that “odds are we’re not going to see a ratings difference."

"I’m pretty damn sure you’re going to see a new tone coming out of this place ... that sense of entitlement of who we are is gone,” he said.

Fourth place
In a wrenching displacement last season, the network dropped from first place to fourth in the crucially important 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

Advertisers also showed only modest interest in NBC’s offerings for the upcoming season and agencies were stunned that NBC kept its Thursday night schedule intact, despite ratings declines. The network's commitments from advertisers dropped by $900 million to $2 billion during this year's upfront ad-selling period.

The absence from the stage of Mr. Reilly’s boss, Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal TV Group, raised eyebrows among the press. When asked why he hadn't joined Mr. Reilly, Mr. Zucker, who was present in the room, told the Associated Press that Mr. Reilly had requested to present alone.

Potential executive exit
Speculation has swirled over the potential exit of a senior programming executive at NBC in the wake of last season's ratings performance.

“Last season was kind of like a colonic,” Mr. Reilly said, acknowledging the weakness of the schedule. “It wasn’t a lot of fun to go through at the time but its going to be healthy in the long run. It literally took any residual sense of entitlement or complacency at our company and blew it out.” Mr. Reilly said management at parent company General Electric Co. understood the cyclical nature of the TV business. “Being part of NBC Universal is insulating us in the short run,” he said.

The network will debut a handful of series come Sept. 19 including E-Ring, Inconceivable, Surface, Three Wishes, My Name Is Earl and The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. The network has spent the last few months retooling some existing shows. Joey, for instance, will see its title character hit it big in Hollywood. NBC also has lined up some promising midseason shows including The Book of Daniel, starring actor Aidan Quinn as an Episcopalian minister; The Poseidon Adventure, 10.5 Apocalypse and a Faith Hill music show.

'Some advertiser concerns'
Mr. Reilly told a reporter from the Los Angeles Times, “I feel a desire to say ... we’re in the advertising business, we need to try to sell ads, we need to comply with the FCC, but you know what, let’s reach for the creativity. Let’s try to find that explosive higher ground ... and if it means we’re struggling a little bit in the short run with some advertising concerns, so be it.”

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