NBC's Swindler Has Strong Hand With Vieira
Edward Swindler's timing could not have been better. When the 30-year NBC executive added oversight of NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution last summer, the syndication unit was enjoying the first-season success of Steve Harvey, its first talk show since Steve Wilkos in 2007 and first non-conflict show since the short-lived Megan Mullally in 2006. Steve Harvey has gotten only stronger in its second season.
Swindler hopes to keep the momentum going this fall with The Meredith Vieira Show, this season’s only new, big-name, big-budget syndicated talk show.
In 2013, Swindler was promoted to president of NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution and president of operations at NBC Broadcast, reporting to Ted Harbert, chairman of NBC Broadcasting. Based in New York, he continues in that role where he is responsible for maximizing the revenue and profitability of the NBC network, its local stations, domestic distribution, first-run syndication and affiliate relations.
Swindler joined NBC in 1984. Prior to the 2013 promotion, he served six years as EVP and chief operating officer of NBC Universal Ad Sales, overseeing sales operations, pricing and planning for $7 billion in annual sales across broadcast, cable and digital. Before that, he held a variety of strategy, pricing and financial jobs.
In this interview with TVNewsCheck Contributing Editor Kevin Downey, Swindler talks about Meredith, Steve Harvey, the fate of such shows as Trisha Goddard and opportunities for fall 2015 that include Katie’s soon-to-be vacated time slots on the ABC Owned Television Stations.
An edited transcript:
How is your transition to syndication going at NBCUniversal?
I spent most of the last 30 years on the national networks, NBC, in particular, but also the cable networks. I spent much of that time as chief operating officer of the ad sales group across those networks. Syndication is an interesting space. It’s more robust than I thought it would be. It’s a lot of fun.
Why do you think Steve Harvey has been successful?
The first reason is that Steve is as talented a host as there is. He proves that every day. He is naturally funny. And, in the second season, he has evolved into one of the premiere talk show hosts.
Once you meet him, it’s very clear why he is successful. He is extraordinarily relatable. He is also a very hard-working guy.
His show was up by more than a third [38%] in homes and about a quarter [22%] in women 25-54 in the November sweeps. I think that reflects that people are finding him. We had a goal to broaden out the show, which we have done. We had a goal to fix some of the markets that were underperforming, which we have done.
Also, Alex Duda and Rushion McDonald, his two executive producers, are very, very good at this. There is the nuts-and-bolts of producing and marketing and selling a show. Then, there is the creative. We are strong in both of those areas.
How important to Steve’s success is its pairing with Warner Bros.’ Ellen on many stations?
It’s very helpful to both shows. He brings an audience to Ellen that she probably didn’t have. The cross-promotion has helped Steve. But these are the two best shows in the afternoon in first-run syndication. They are very fun to watch and they flow well together.
What are your expectations for Meredith Vieira this fall?
Our expectation is that it will be successful, creatively, and in the ratings. All the legs that hold up a show in syndication are in excellent shape: clearance, ad sales, the creative and casting.
It’s cleared in more than 90% of the country, which is a reflection of the great work of Sean O’Boyle and his team. Within that 90%, more than 90% is cleared on very strong NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates. It has got a leg up.
Ad sales are equally important in a show’s first year. We are in the marketplace with partnerships that we hope to get done before the upfront.
Creatively, the show is in good shape. Valerie Schaer [EVP, creative affairs] is my partner in this. She is our chief creative. She worked with Meredith on The View. It’s a great team.
We expect this to be a successful launch. There are no other shows of this level coming out in the fall, which we hope will be helpful to us.
Are you expecting Meredith to be profitable in its first or second seasons?
I never comment on the financial outlook for a show. But, at NBCUniversal we do the responsible thing, in terms of program costs and license fees. We do the right thing to maintain long-term relationships with affiliates and we do the right thing in ad sales for long-term relationships with our key clients.
You set all of these things so you have a profitable trajectory over the course of a show’s life. These shows, when they succeed, are quite profitable. We set it up to be profitable, but I can’t comment on whether or not we’ll be successful out of the gate. These are long-term bets.