Jeff Zucker is a lucky man. Despite driving NBC’s once-great brand into the ground, the executive continues to fail upward, inexplicably so.
The NBC Universal CEO has been tapped to lead the joint venture in the works between General Electric and Comcast, according to Reuters. In the deal, Comcast would get a 51% stake in the entity, keeping Zucker in charge of its cable networks among all else.
Zucker’s good fortune confounds Daily Finance’s Jeff Bercovici, who presents a solid case against Zucker. Bercovici points toward the failure of Jay Leno’s primetime show — a Zucker-experiment-gone-wrong — as another example of the boss’ ineptitude.
In a nice bit of irony-flavored synchronicity, the news about Zucker’s job security comes amid fresh reports of what a dismal failure his boldest initiative is shaping up to be. It was Zucker who dreamed up a 10 p.m. talk show as a way to keep Jay Leno at NBC, while reducing the network’s prime-time programming costs.
The success of this strategy rested on several premises, one or more of which appear to have been faulty. Zucker believed that viewers who deserted NBC in the immediate aftermath of the format change would come surging back once the 10 p.m. dramas on ABC and CBS go to reruns.
Yet Zucker failed on several accounts: The migration of viewers to cable and the Internet; the lack of foresight to see that Leno’s ratings mojo does not translate to primetime, as evidenced by his low ratings and the appeal of quality dramas on Other Networks (like CBS’ “The Goodwife”); the disregard for local-news affiliates who risk losing viewers because they follow Leno, and then the ripple effect on Conan O’Brien’s “Tonight Show,” which is trailing David Letterman in the late-night wars.
Bercovici singles out someone better for the job: Peter Chernin, former president of News Corporation, who’s advising Comcast on the venture.
Might we suggest Jack Donaghy?
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