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NBC to air miniseries about Hillary Clinton, timed ahead of 2016 presidential elections

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July 16, 2013: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton addresses the 51st Delta Sigma Theta National Convention in Washington.AP

A miniseries about Hillary Clinton, timed to precede the 2016 presidential election, is part of NBC's effort to create "event" programming that will draw viewers to the shrinking world of broadcast network TV, the network's programming chief said Saturday.

"We need to be in the event business. I think you're going to hear that from every broadcast network," said Bob Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment chairman.

Though Clinton hasn't announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for president, Greenblatt spoke as if her candidacy is expected. 

"Hillary" could air before Clinton announces her decision, but the timing has yet to be determined, he said.

The four-hour miniseries "Hillary," starring Diane Lane as the former first lady and secretary of state, is one such bid for distinctive programming, Greenblatt said.

The goal is to woo viewers who are increasingly drawn away by cable TV's eye-catching, critically acclaimed fare like "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" and other media choices.

Broadcasting's audience is shrinking by 4 percent to 7 percent annually, Greenblatt told a meeting of the Television Critics Association.

"Anything that can shake up the landscape and say, `we have something special"' would be considered part of the varied group of event projects, he said.

At NBC, that ranges from the new fall game show "Million Second Quiz" to big-ticket scripted fare including "Hillary" and other projects announced Saturday: "Rosemary's Baby" a four-hour version of the Ira Levin novel that was adapted as a 1968 movie; an adaptation of "Stephen King's Tommyknockers," and "Plymouth," about the Pilgrim's journey and settlement in America.

A six-hour miniseries about Cleopatra is in development, Greenblatt said.

He didn't address how a Clinton miniseries, which will track her life and career from 1998 to the present, might affect the presidential contest.

The part of former President Bill Clinton has yet to be cast. Lane's credits include the feature films "Unfaithful" and "Under the Tuscan Sun" and the TV movie "Cinema Verite."

Other networks seeking to stem audience erosion are jumping on the event bandwagon, especially in light of the success of another King adaptation, CBS' summer series "Under the Dome." Announced plans include a Fox's remake of the "Shogun" miniseries based on James Clavell's novel.

Greenblatt argued that NBC, which finished the last September-to-May season in fourth place in total viewers, is in better shape when the entire year is taken into account, especially among advertiser-favored young adult viewers.

He credited the popular talent contests "The Voice" and "America's Got Talent," as well as dramas "Grimm" and "Hannibal."

NBC has high hopes for the fall sitcom that brings Michael J. Fox back to TV but is prepared for a big tune-in for the debut episode that might not be sustainable, Greenblatt said.