After Only 11 in 2009, NBC Planning 18 Pilots for Fall 2010

On Dec. 31, in a story that got little traction due to the holiday, Bloomberg reported that NBC will increase production of new shows to the most since 2003 to reverse seven straight seasons of declining ratings. In stark contrast to last year’s 11, there are 18 pilots planned for the season starting in September 2010, prime-time entertainment president Angela Bromstad told the news agency.

According to Bromstad, “In success we became used to making fewer and fewer pilots,” following the heyday of Seinfeld and Friends. “We have to take more swings, take more shots creatively, and have more back-up,” she told Bloomberg.

NBC’s prime-time audience is headed for an eighth straight decline after it moved Jay Leno to 10 p.m., replacing more expensive scripted programs.

“We have so many holes that we have to essentially rebuild the schedule,” Bromstad said. “Not having the additional five hours has certainly relieved some of the pressure.”

Blogger Catharine P. Taylor at picked up the story yesterday and suggested, “It seems like ordering so many pilots, just might leave (NBC) with some additional wiggle room if it decides to deep-six the ‘Leno’ show, which seems a likelihood not only because of the show’s ratings but because of the unfortunate ripple effect the show has had on local news and the network’s late-night schedule. While the chances of any pilot making it on air are very low, and there’s of course an even lower chance that a show will actually catch on, consider the following: NBC is ordering up enough pilots to fill the 8 to 10 slot almost one and a half times if the entire current schedule were to be obliterated.”

While she’s not saying that Bromstad is stretching the truth in what she said, Taylor writes, “ordering up so many pilots is a great way to hedge one’s bets, and if ever a broadcast network needed to do some hedging, it’s NBC.”

“With rival broadcast networks riding a relatively high number of new hit shows premiering last fall, NBC appears to have the unenviable task of having to reprogram well over 20 percent of its prime-time schedule for next season,” Tuna Amobi, an analyst with Standard & Poor’s, told Bloomberg.

NBC will make 10 hour-long dramas and eight 30-minute comedies for the next TV season, Bromstad told Bloomberg. But while production will rise, the network is spending less on each pilot.

Meanwhile, The Wrap reports that NBC Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin will appear on stage alongside Bromstad on Sunday at the TV Critics Association Press Tour. This will be Gaspin’s first TCA visit since assuming the top job at the network; his absence in August met with grumbling from critics, says TW.