Peter Chernin, the ex-president/COO of News Corp., has been a secret, paid, advisor for Comcast in the deal to acquire NBCU from GE, the New York Times reports.
Chernin isn’t working with bankers on the deal, but he is helping Comcast “understand what the prospects are for these content businesses,” according to the report.
While Chernin is only a consultant, the Times points out he could be a valuable asset to have on board in case Comcast decides to toss Jeff Zucker.
Anonymous executives familiar with the deal have said that Zucker would stay CEO if Comcast acquired NBC. Maybe that’s true, but maybe they just want Zucker’s support as the deal unfolds. They could always change their mind in 6 months. It is easier to justify firing Zucker if a competent replacement like Chernin is available.
Under Zucker’s watch the network has fallen completely off the map. His most recent, biggest, bet, the Jay Leno Show is already faltering. The LA Times reported yesterday loal affiliates are frustrated with the low ratings Leno is producing. Local news at 11 pm is profitable, but Leno’s weak lead-in is killing the ratings, threatening their bottom lines.
While he’s struggled with network programming, the cable division is strong.
When Peter Chernin left News Corp., he started his own production company, developing films and television shows. He’s already sold two to CBS. He’s also a personal friend of Stephe Burke, Comcast’s COO.
It’s unclear if Chernin wants the job, but this has to make Zucker a little bit more skittish about the merger. According to the Times, he just learned that Chernin was involved a few weeks ago.