NBC Grounds Its Pilots

NBC is blowing up its development process, doing away with pilots in most cases in an effort to save money.

That was the word from NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker on Tuesday, who told company employees that the network could save up to $50 million each year by not producing pilots.

"Sometimes you see the world from a different perspective when you're flat on your back," The New York Times quotes Zucker as saying. "At NBC Entertainment we've been flat on our backs for the last few years."

The writers' strike will put a serious dent in this year's pilot season. CBS, FOX and The CW have already cut a number of projects that were in development before the strike began, and ABC and NBC are likely to do the same.

NBC, though, is considering making the cuts permanent. Zucker says the cost of pilots has increased dramatically in recent years, making the process a high-risk, low-reward endeavor for the network. NBC typically only orders five or six new shows each year from a crop of 15 to 20 pilots.

"You're spending money on programs you're not going to get," Zucker said in a video "town hall" with NBC Universal employees. The network may still order a couple of pilots each year, but not much more than that.

Just how NBC will pick new shows is unclear. The network has experimented with a couple of different ideas in the past year, including splitting the cost for a 13-episode adaptation of "Robinson Crusoe" with a European producer.