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NBC Entertainment president says Ben Silverman 'always intended' to leave

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NBC Entertainment president Angela Bromstad told TV critics Wednesday that NBC won’t be “tremendously different” now that co-chairman Ben Silverman has left the company and that it continues to have “tremendous continuity and calm. We are moving in the right direction.” Bromstad unintentionally elicited laughter from the press when she said Silverman “always intended to return to his entrepreneurial roots” in explaining his abrupt, but not-so-shocking departure last week from the fourth-place network. “I don’t think he was looking to be at NBC for a long-term thing,” Bromstad said. “He brought Paul [Telegdy, executive VP of alternative programming] and I back to help him transition out.”

For months, Silverman was widely rumored to be on his way out given the network’s poor performance last season and its lack of success with summer series like The Listener and The Philanthropist.  To that end, Bromstad conceded that NBC “need to be on brand. Merlin has done okay. Philanthropist has done okay. We need to do better….Our goal is to bring back high quality sophisticated drama and comedies and a brand of alternative that fits.”

Bromstad and Telegdy, who joined the entertainment president on the dais Wednesday at the Television Critics Tour, largely deflected questions about whether NBC is right to declare Conan O’Brien the king of late night so early in his run. Though O’Brien wins the time slot among 18-49-year-olds, many weeks saw David Letterman attracting the most total viewers,  and he is narrowing the gap in the key 18-49 demo as well.  Bromstad was loathe to set a benchmark for Jay Leno and define when the network will consider his show a success. “We are not going to declare a specific rating,” she said. “I think there are a lot of things that will mean success for that show. It’s a marathon. It won’t be determined in the first five days of the show.”

Other highlights from Bromstad and Telegdy’s press conference:

• Telegdy responded to a question about whether he would consider Paula Abdul as a judge for America’s Got Talent by saying the outgoing American Idol judge was “an exceptional piece of talent…[but we] have no specific plans for her. I read the breaking news last night….I wouldn’t rule anything out. As a viewer, I will miss her on the show.”

• Bromstad said Heroes is doing “exceptionally well” now that the drama’s former producer, Brian Fuller (Pushing Daisies) lent a hand in the writers room to “initially help Tim Kring get back on track.”

30 Rock’s return to NBC’s Thursday lineup was delayed this fall because of Alec Baldwin’s film schedule, Bromstad explained. Community will bow Sept. 17 in its time slot; 30 Rock returns  to the night Oct. 15.

• NBC has kept its development budget intact, despite the fact that it is stripping Leno five nights a week. “We didn’t cut it with Jay because we are still committed to putting on strong scripted shows. If we find out we don’t need the current budget, we will make adjustments.”

• Adjustments have been made to the struggling sophomore drama Southland — like focusing the action on the characters played by Ben McKenzie and Regina King — to make it more accessible to fans, explained Bromstad. “The [producers] tried to do too much in those first six episodes,” she conceded. “We need to let the audience get more familiar with characters.”

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