Though the press has focused its attention on the rivalry between NBC and CBS - most notably Friends vs. Survivor on Thursday nights - NBC's top executive, president Bob Wright, is directing his attention elsewhere: at HBO.
Wright sent a letter to other network executives asking for feedback on how major networks like NBC can compete with HBO, considering HBO's leniency in terms of violence, nudity and profanity, according to Wednesday's New York Times. Spokespersons for CBS and ABC declined to comment to Hollywood.com, but an NBC spokesman refuted the Times report.
"[Mr. Wright] did not send his letter to any other networks," said NBC Publicity spokesman Corey Shields. "He was not critical. That report is not the case. He sent it only to NBC executives requesting their responses."
Wright is on a two-week vacation and cannot be reached for comment, according to his office.
This begs the question: is NBC deflecting criticism that it cannot beat Survivor and other competing shows and is looking for new battles?
Wright cited HBO's looser limitations on sex and violence as the concern.
He says of The Sopranos, in the Times report: "It is getting very large viewership and critical praise, and it won a Peabody Award. But it is also a show that would generally raise concerns about what gets on television. And yet this show doesn't raise those concerns."
HBO did not return a call for comment.