||Weaver was hired by NBC in 1949, to help challenge CBS’s ratings lead. While at NBC, Weaver established many operating practices that became standard for network television; he introduced the practice of networks producing their own television programs and selling advertising time during the broadcasts. Prior to this, advertising agencies usually developed each show for a particular client. Because commercial slots could now more easily be sold to more than one corporate sponsor for each program, a single advertiser pulling out of a program would not necessarily threaten it. Weaver also created several series for the network, Today (in 1952), Tonight Starring Steve Allen (in 1954, the first program in the Tonight Show franchise), Home (1954) and Wide Wide World (1955). Weaver strongly believed that broadcasting should educate as well as entertain and required NBC shows to typically include at least one sophisticated cultural reference or performance per installment – including a segment of a Giuseppe Verdi opera adapted to the comedic style of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca’s groundbreaking Your Show of Shows. Weaver did not ignore NBC Radio and gave it a shot in the arm in 1955, at a time when network radio was dying and giving way to television, when he developed NBC Monitor, a weekend-long magazine-style block featuring an array of news, music, comedy, drama and sports, with rotating advertisers and some of the most memorable names in broadcast journalism, entertainment and sports that ran until 1975 (20 years after Weaver’s departure). Weaver departed shortly afterward, following disputes with NBC chairman David Sarnoff, who believed that his ideas were either too expensive or too highbrow for company tastes. His respective successors, Robert Sarnoff and Robert Kintner, standardized the network’s programming practices with far less of the ambitiousness that characterized the Weaver years.
|Robert E. Kintner
||Kintner was appointed president in 1958; his tenure at NBC was marked by his aggressive effort to push the network’s news division past CBS News in ratings and prestige. The news division was given more money, leading it to gain additional resources to provide coverage, notably of the 1960 Presidential election campaign, and led the Huntley-Brinkley Report to prominence among the network news programs.
||Goodman, who joined NBC in 1966, helped establish Chet Huntley and David Brinkley as a well-known anchor team. While working at NBC, he negotiated a $1 million deal to retain Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show.
||Although Silverman developed many successful shows during his tenure at ABC, he left that network to become president and CEO of NBC in 1978. His three-year tenure at the network proved to be a difficult period for the network, marked by several high-profile failures such as Hello, Larry, Pink Lady and Jeff, Supertrain and the Jean Doumanian era of Saturday Night Live (Silverman hired Doumanian after Al Franken, the planned successor for outgoing creator/executive producer Lorne Michaels, castigated Silverman’s failures in a sketch on the program). Despite these failures, high points during Silverman’s tenure included the launch of Hill Street Blues and the miniseries Shōgun. He also brought David Letterman to the network to host daytime talker The David Letterman Show, two years before the debut of Letterman’s successful late night program in 1982, after Silverman negotiated a holding deal after the former’s cancellation to keep Letterman from going to another network. However, Silverman nearly lost late-night leader Johnny Carson, who filed a lawsuit against NBC during a contract dispute with the network; the case was settled out of court and Carson remained with NBC in exchange for acquiring the rights to his show and permission to reduce his time on-air (leading to the use of guest hosts on The Tonight Show such as Joan Rivers and his immediate successor, Jay Leno). Silverman also developed successful sitcoms such as Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life and Gimme a Break!, and made the series commitments that led to Cheers and St. Elsewhere. Silverman also pioneered the reality television genre with the 1979 debut of Real People. His contributions to the network’s game show output included the Goodson-Todman-produced Card Sharks and a revival of Password, both of which enjoyed great success as part of the morning schedule, although he also canceled several other relatively popular series, including The Hollywood Squares and High Rollers, to make way for The David Letterman Show (those cancellations also threatened Wheel of Fortune, whose host, Chuck Woolery, left in a payment dispute during Silverman’s tenure, although the show survived). Silverman also oversaw, while simultaneously objecting to, the hiring of Pat Sajak as the new host of Wheel (Sajak remains as host to this day in its syndicated incarnation). On Saturday mornings, at a time when there was much similarity in animated content on the major networks, Silverman oversaw the development of an animated series based on The Smurfs (which ran from 1981 to 1989, well after Silverman’s departure, making it one of his longest-lasting contributions to the network) as well as a revival of The Flintstones. In addition, Silverman revitalized the NBC News division, helping Today and NBC Nightly News achieve parity with their competition for the first time in years; and created a new FM radio division with competitive stations in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. During his NBC tenure, Silverman also brought in an entirely new divisional and corporate management team, which remained in place long after Silverman’s departure (among this group was Brandon Tartikoff, who as President of Entertainment, would help get NBC back on top by 1985). Silverman also reintroduced the peacock as NBC’s corporate logo in 1979.
||Tartikoff was hired as a program executive at ABC in 1976. He joined NBC the following year, after being hired by Dick Ebersol to direct comedy programs for the network. Tartikoff took over as president of NBC’s entertainment division in 1981, becoming the youngest person ever to hold the position, at age 32. At the time Tartikoff took over, NBC was mired in last place behind ABC and CBS, and faced a looming writers’ strike and affiliates defecting to other networks (mostly to ABC); Little House on the Prairie, Diff’rent Strokes and Real People were the only primetime shows the network had in the Nielsen Top 20. Also of issue, Johnny Carson was reportedly in talks to move his landmark late-night talk show to ABC; while the original cast and writing staff of Saturday Night Live had left the show, and their replacements had earned SNL some of its worst reviews. By 1982, Tartikoff and network president Grant Tinker gradually turned the network’s fortunes around. Tartikoff’s successes as President of Entertainment included The Cosby Show (Tartikoff had pursued actor-comedian Bill Cosby to create a comedy pilot after having been impressed by the comedian’s stories when Cosby was a guest host on The Tonight Show), the iconic 1980s drama Miami Vice (Tartikoff wrote a brainstorming memo that simply read “MTV cops”, and later presented it to former Hill Street Blues writer/producer Anthony Yerkovich, who turned into the concept behind Miami Vice). and Knight Rider (which was inspired by a perceived lack of leading men who could act, with Tartikoff suggesting that a talking car could fill in the gaps in any leading man’s acting abilities). While Family Ties was undergoing its casting process, Tartikoff was unexcited about Michael J. Fox being considered for the role of Alex P. Keaton; however, creator/executive producer Gary David Goldberg insisted on having Fox in the role until Tartikoff relented, saying, “Go ahead if you insist. But I’m telling you, this is not the kind of face you’ll ever see on a lunch box”. After Fox’s stardom was cemented by Back to the Future, he good-naturedly sent Tartikoff a lunch box with Fox’s picture that contained a note reading: “To Brandon: This is for you to put your crow in. Love and Kisses, Michael J. Fox”, which Tartikoff kept in his office for the rest of his career. Johnny Carson broke the news of his retirement in February 1991 to Tartikoff during a lunch meeting at the Grille in Beverly Hills. Tartikoff and chairman Bob Wright were the only ones who knew of the planned retirement before it was made public days later. Tartikoff wrote in his memoirs that his biggest professional regret was cancelling the series Buffalo Bill, which he later went on to include in a fantasy “dream schedule” created for a TV Guide article that detailed his idea of “The Greatest Network Ever.”
||Littlefield helped develop Cheers, The Cosby Show and The Golden Girls as senior, and later, executive vice president of NBC Entertainment under Brandon Tartikoff, of whom Littlefield was his protégé. During his tenure as president of NBC, Littlefield oversaw the creation of many hit shows during the 1990s such as Seinfeld, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Wings, Blossom, Law & Order, Mad About You, Sisters, Frasier, Friends, ER, Homicide: Life on the Street, Caroline in the City, NewsRadio, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Suddenly Susan, Just Shoot Me!, Will & Grace and The West Wing.
||Sassa joined NBC in September 1997 as president of the NBC Television Stations division, where he was responsible for overseeing the operation of NBC’s then 13 owned-and-operated stations. In October 1998, Sassa became president of NBC Entertainment, lasting in that position for eight months until he was reassigned to NBC’s West Coast division in May 1999, where, as its president, he oversaw NBC’s entertainment-related businesses. Sassa made the transition to that position after working alongside his predecessor, Don Ohlmeyer. During this time, he oversaw the development and production of NBC’s new primetime series including such shows as The West Wing, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Fear Factor. Under Sassa, NBC rated as the #1 network for three out of four seasons.
||Ancier, who also worked as a television producer (most notably, serving as executive producer of tabloid talk show Ricki Lake) prior to joining the network, was named President of NBC Entertainment in 1999.
||Reilly was appointed President of Entertainment in May 2004. Having begun his career at NBC Entertainment almost two decades earlier, he returned to the network in the fall of 2003 as President of Primetime Development. Early in his NBC career, Reilly supervised Law & Order in its first season and helped develop ER. After his first stint at NBC, Reilly became President of Brad Grey Television, the television production arm of Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, in 1994. He was responsible for the development of the pilot for The Sopranos, and NBC sitcoms Just Shoot Me! and NewsRadio. Reilly’s vocal support of The Office helped it survive its first season, despite it suffering from low ratings. Shows developed under Reilly included My Name Is Earl, Heroes, 30 Rock and Friday Night Lights. Although he signed a new three-year contract with NBC in February 2007, Reilly was terminated as president in late May 2007. Approximately one month later, he joined Fox as its President of Entertainment.
||Silverman and Marc Graboff were appointed co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment in 2007, succeeding Kevin Reilly. That year, Silverman became the first producer since Norman Lear (in 1973) to have two Emmy-nominated shows in the “Outstanding Comedy/Variety Series” category (The Office and ABC’s Ugly Betty). He is credited for his role in saving the critically acclaimed but low-rated NBC drama Friday Night Lights by striking an innovative deal, in which DirecTV agreed to take on a substantial amount of the show’s production budget in exchange for exclusive first window rights to broadcast the program on The 101 while NBC would re-air the episodes later in the season.
||Gaspin first joined NBC in the early 1980s, as part of its associates program, after failing to find any jobs in finance on Wall Street. After spending five years in the finance department, he was promoted to a programming position at NBC News at the urging of the news division’s then-president Michael Gartner, before being moved to the entertainment division. During his first tenure, Gaspin helped to develop and launch Dateline NBC and oversaw the expansion of Today to weekends. In 1996, Gaspin left NBC to become program development chief at VH1. Gaspin returned to NBC in 2001 as Executive Vice President of Program Strategy at NBC Entertainment, where he helped to develop new programs such as The Apprentice and The Biggest Loser. In 2002, Gaspin was appointed as President of Bravo, following NBC’s purchase of the cable channel, where his most notable accomplishments were the massive hits Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Project Runway. He was reassigned to President of NBC Universal Cable and Digital Content in 2007. In July 2009, Gaspin was promoted to Chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, becoming responsible for NBC Entertainment, USA Network, Bravo and NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution.
|George Cheeks & Paul Telegdy
||Cheeks and Telegdy succeeded Robert Greenblatt in September 2018, following Greenblatt’s departure. Cheeks moved to CBS in January 2020. Telegdy left in August 2020 after accusations of racism.