NEW YORK — Robert C. Wright, NBC's new president, says he's "going to keep the heat on" to make the company as efficient as possible in today's lean times of flat advertising revenue and rising program costs.
However, he told a news conference here Wednesday, he doesn't think that current efforts to cut NBC's costs will result in layoffs as large as those that have hit CBS and ABC over a year's time.
NBC, which has about 8,000 employees, may eventually emerge "somewhat smaller," he said, "but I don't think there'll be any dramatic change."
Even so, he later added, "we're going to look very carefully at our head count. There's a cost issue . . . that we can't ignore."
He spoke to about 60 out-of-town TV critics and writers on the closing night of their 12-day, three-network round of star and executive interviews and screenings of new programs.
Although he has held lunch interviews with small groups of journalists here, Wright's appearance before the assemblage of TV reporters was his first since Sept. 1, when the former General Electric executive took over at NBC as board chairman Grant Tinker left to return to independent production in Hollywood.
Their public styles differ markedly. At his press sessions, Tinker was casually dressed, joked with reporters and usually was asked about programs, not budget reviews, company "downsizing" and other weighty corporate matters.
In Wright, the out-of-towners saw a crisp, to-the-point man in a business suit. Despite a mild jest now and then, he clearly seemed the embodiment of the efficiency-minded, hard-working executive, without the knack of verbal play that was part of the Tinker style.
It was inevitable that NBC's new boss would be asked which current TV shows he likes (he cited seven--five on his own network--"L.A. Law" and "Miami Vice" among them--plus ABC's "Moonlighting" and CBS' "The Newhart Show").
But a goodly number of questions put to him concerned corporate matters, including the possibility of NBC layoffs and whether NBC News should be what one reporter called "a profit center."
To the latter query, Wright replied in what also resembled corporate language. He said that "my issue with (NBC's) news is not to push them into so-called profitability by generating advertising dollars from broadcasting."
His issue, he said, is to make sure that all of NBC News' resources are "being intelligently and adequately utilized," and that the news division keeps in mind the increasing ability of affiliates to gather news beyond their own city limits.
NBC should be certain, he explained, that "we've got a good match of what it is we bring to the viewer and what it is affiliate news organizations bring to the viewer."