OK, by now it’s clear that GE chieftains are committed to NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker, despite this latest rocky quarter and the fact the flagship network is tucked it at fourth and last place among the majors.
But if they decided that, say, losing money on the most watched Super Bowl in history, or never really finding hits to replace Friends and Seinfeld, or putting Ben Silverman in charge of the network were actually his fault, they could start looking for a replacement.
Let’s start the discussion for them with these four possibilities. Other suggestions?
•Tom Freston: The former Viacom boss fell out of favour with Sumner Redstone and has spent the past three years travelling and serving on corporate boards. He’s a young 63 and could be the guy with enough gravitas and cool to mobilize the NBCU troops to put a better creative structure in place. And his age makes nurturing a real successor less of a threat.
•David Zaslav: Once the head of NBC Universal cable and domestic television, Zaslev has been on a nice run at Discovery Communications, which owns the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Planet Green and a host of other cable channels. Its shares have outperformed all of the media giants since Zaslev took the helm in 2007 and he could be itching for something bigger. At 48, he could make the ideal prodigal son for NBCU to welcome back and watch grow into a mogul in his own right.
Randy Falco: OK, so he wasn’t so good on the web and got blown out of AOL for Tim Armstrong. Still, he was a loyal NBC soldier for decades and only left because he was passed over for promotion. He wouldn’t have a ton of leverage coming in but he would be seeking career redemption, and like Zaslav, knows how the place works.
•Chris Albrecht: OK, this is a long, longshot. Still, Albrecht is the man who made HBO a great network and NBC could use a some magic. The problem: he lost the top job there after a violent public fight with his girlfriend and then last summer, he abruptly walked away from his gig at IMG when credit crunch cut into his acquisition plans. Still, when it comes to picking great shows and nurturing franchises, has it gotten any better than The Sopranos and Sex and the City over the past decade. He would need a strong number 2.
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