Reality sets in as network decides on cheaper fare

NBC, the network of "The Cosby Show" and "Friends," will shift away from comedies and dramas in the 8 p.m. hour starting next season. The network unveiled a strategy Thursday that banks on cheaper unscripted programming, such as "Deal or No Deal."
The plan reflects business pressures, a changing medium and difficulties at NBC Universal, which is owned by General Electric. By the end of 2008, NBC Universal will cut operating expenses by 750 million and shed 700 jobs. NBC Universal also will consolidate news operations.
The changes will be most noticeable to NBC's prime-time viewers.
"We are beefing up our reality development and dedicating our efforts to the interactive elements of those shows," said Kevin Reilly, president of NBC Entertainment. "This doesn't mean we're not going to schedule scripted shows at 8. Reality has been the most successful genre at 8 on all the networks over the past five, six seasons."
"Deal or No Deal" costs 1.1 million per episode while a drama can cost twice that amount. The game show is averaging 14.7 million viewers at 8 p.m. Monday. NBC will offer another game show, "1 vs 100," at 8 p.m. Fridays, starting Oct. 27. That series' premiere drew 12.8 million.
NBC's scripted programming doesn't have the same oomph in the 8 p.m. hour. "Friday Night Lights," a football drama, draws 6.5 million Tuesday.
"We're saying we need accessible, easily joinable programming at 8 o'clock," said Rebecca Marks, an NBC spokeswoman. "That doesn't mean we will change strategy on Thursday. We're pleased with 'The Office' and 'My Name Is Earl.' But we'll spend money on reality."

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