Saturday, September 25, 2010

NBC Universal boss to leave after Comcast deal

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said Friday that he would be stepping down as soon as the merger between Comcast and NBC Universal was completed, which is expected later this year.
Zucker made the announcement to his staff in New York on Friday morning, and it was first reported by The New York Times . The move was not entirely unexpected because Comcast, which will own the majority stake of the combined entity, has made it clear that Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke would be in charge of NBC Universal. The timing of the announcement, however, was sooner than most people had figured.

In the past few weeks, Zucker and his bosses at General Electric Co., which currently owns NBC Universal, have been tussling over when Burke would unveil his plans for a new organizational structure, which presumably would not include Zucker.

Zucker, who rose to prominence as the youngest-ever executive producer of the Today show, took over the company in 2007.

Late-night moves caused controversy

It was a tumultuous reign. Although Zucker energized the company, moved NBC Universal into the digital age and was a key architect of the online video website Hulu, he badly misfired by hiring an inexperienced independent TV producer, Ben Silverman, to be in charge of programming for the NBC network.

His risky and well-publicized move to shift Tonight Show host Jay Leno to an earlier, nightly program severely damaged NBC's prime-time schedule and seriously affected the finances of NBC affiliate TV stations.

Earlier this year, Zucker's plan to move Leno back to late night infuriated Conan O'Brien, who had been given the Tonight Show , and led to a protracted separation that played out like a soap opera on late-night TV.

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