With Southland cancelled, NBC is still “managing margins” when it’s convenient
In an interview with The Wrap that was largely focused on the cancellation of Southland, NBC Universal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin indicated NBC was shifting away somewhat from the philosophy of managing for the margins. Gaspin cited recent deals with J.J. Abrams and Jerry Bruckheimer as proof that everything wasn’t about the bottom line.
But when it came to Southland it seems the worry wasn’t that Southland cost more, it was that Southland would have lower ratings than (the much, much cheaper) Dateline NBC:
The executive says that all signs pointed to “Southland” doing worse in the Friday timeslot than “Dateline.”
“We would likely take a hit in the ratings, and that was something I didn’t want to see happen,” he said, particularly with so many other weak spots in the NBC lineup.
Gaspin saw a scenario in which NBC spent a lot of time and money to relaunch “Southland,” only to be forced to pull the show a few weeks after its return.
“The whole team debated this. It was a very hard decision for us,” Gaspin added. “But in the end, the idea of putting something on in order to pull it off a couple weeks later- – I just didn’t want to see that happen. I just couldn’t do it.”
At first, NBC considered holding back “Southland” for later in the season or putting it in another, less successful timeslot. But then Gaspin and other executives began debating the overall tone of the show — and they came to the conclusion that the series wasn’t right for NBC.
“My belief is that dark and grim in general is not the tone I want to see NBC take right now in our development and in our schedule,” Gaspin said. “It doesn’t mean it can’t be intense. It doesn’t mean it can’t be dramatic. But dark and grim and real, I think, is not what the audience for broadcast television is looking for right now.
“The way we need to rebuild NBC is with broad, somewhat blue-sky, somewhat more optimistic programming. And unfortunately a show like ‘Southland’ didn’t fit that bill.
Gaspin also noted that the network was in a rebuilding process, and sometimes during a rebuilding you have to tear things down so you could build them back up. Gaspin also said he wasn’t about making bold proclamations and wanted to fly under the radar a bit, and while he’d answer direct questions about specific decisions he didn’t want to program the network in a public forum.