The anticipation of CBS’ Survivor: The Australian Outback (which goes on the air in a few weeks time) has initiated a scheduling war at the network’s competitor, NBC. Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment, revealed that Survivor II has prompted him to incorporate more "unconventional programming" into his schedule. Said Zucker, "Sitcoms and dramas are going to be our bread and butter, but there must also be that non-scripted programming that will make it easier to find those sitcoms and dramas," according to a recent Daily TV Digest report.
When asked for clarification, Rebecca Marks, NBC’s VP of entertainment publicity said, "I think what [Zucker] meant was that there’s got to be a blend of some of the sitcoms and dramas that NBC does in addition to unscripted shows, which includes reality shows" We need reality programming because it is far less expensive. If we fill every single half-hour or hour with action, drama or comedy, it puts us under a lot of pressure to develop something new and outstanding every season. There needs to be a balance in the schedule for a lot of reasons. Reality programming is a good promo-base, it reaches a broad audience, and it will take the pressure off the development side of comedy and drama."
Marks couldn’t be specific about the type of reality shows that might be seen on the network in the future, but the challenge of what to pit against the new Survivor series (which will air in CBS’ Thursday 8:00p.m. to 9:00p.m. timeslot), has prompted NBC to bring out its biggest guns. Says Marks, "We’ll show Friends [NBC's highest rated comedy series] from 8:00p.m. to 8:40p.m., and then we’ll have Saturday Night Live [NBC's Emmy-winning late-night comedy showcase] from 8:40p.m. to 9:00p.m."
At press time, NBC had not completed its battle strategy, as Marks notes: "Saturday Night Live will occupy that slot for the first two weeks – we don’t know what we’re going to do with that 20 minutes in the second two weeks."