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California and the West

Reilly to remain leader of NBC Entertainment

March 02, 2007|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly on Thursday signed a new three-year contract with NBC Universal, giving him more time to pull the peacock network out of the ratings basement.

Reilly assumed his job in May 2004 just as NBC's prime-time schedule, which had dominated ratings for more than a decade, was about to collapse. That fall, when the network opened the TV season without the blockbusters "Friends" and "Frasier," it plunged from first to fourth place in prime-time.

Since then, Reilly has struggled to return the luster to NBC's prime-time lineup -- with mixed results. Several shows he championed, including "The Office," "My Name Is Earl" and "Heroes," succeeded while big-budget bets like Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and "Kidnapped" flopped.

His bosses at NBC Universal, owned by General Electric Co., said that even though NBC might yet again finish the season in fourth place, the Burbank-based entertainment division had made gains in increasing the network's audience. And they like Reilly's taste in shows, particularly ones such as "Heroes" and "The Office," which appeal to younger viewers.

Reilly said that he was happy to reach an agreement with NBC, which came after weeks of negotiations, and that he was motivated to return NBC to prominence. "I want to complete it. I want to see this all of the way through," Reilly said in an interview. "We've put some key pieces in place, but obviously we need some more."

Reilly, 44, said he was optimistic about NBC's prospects, particularly now that he has his own team in place. His recently named boss was also upbeat.

"We're in the beginning stages of the turnaround, and Kevin has been able to point us in the right direction," said Marc Graboff, president of NBC Universal Television, West Coast. "The quality is back on NBC, and Kevin has been a big part of that."

meg.james@latimes.com

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