NBC’s Zucker gets more West Coast power

May 27, 2002  •  Post A Comment

NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker now rules the West Coast for the Peacock Network. He has added responsibility for NBC Studios, NBC Enterprises and the NBC Agency to the Entertainment duties at which he’s proved so adept in the last 18 months. Mr. Zucker, 37, will report to NBC President and Chief Operating Officer Andy Lack.
The restructuring caps Mr. Zucker’s first full season as Entertainment chief, a season in which NBC extended its lead over the competition. He displaces NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa, 43, as had been expected.
Mr. Zucker, the former executive producer of “Today,” has proven to be a quick study, an aggressive programmer and a quotable promoter. He now has a degree of control over Entertainment that no single executive has enjoyed since NBC’s ’80s wunderkind Brandon Tartikoff.
“I’m excited and thrilled enough that Bob and Andy have enough confidence in me to do this,” Mr. Zucker said. “I always love having the ball for the final play of the game.”
“Obviously, there is more responsibility, so there is increased pressure, but I’m eager to be stretched,” he said. “I think in many ways [we] will be even more integrated than we’ve been, which I think is actually a good thing. As the business has changed and our in-house production and syndication have increased, it makes more and more sense to have it fully integrated.”
Marc Graboff, executive VP of NBC West Coast, is expected to continue to be Mr. Zucker’s business affairs executive and help shoulder some of the duties that had been assigned to Mr. Sassa.
The Studios and Enterprises divisions were among those that had reported to Mr. Sassa, who is segueing to a role focused on “strategic ventures.” Mr. Sassa, whose exit from the West Coast division has been expected for months, will be reporting to Mr. Lack and to NBC Chairman Bob Wright. Most insiders see Mr. Sassa’s role as a transitional one that buys him time to find his next challenge.
Mr. Wright said that Mr. Sassa is not working under contract and is “free to leave” at any time but is putting together a presentation about ways in which he thinks he can be helpful and insightful to NBC. The possibilities range from scouting potential buys to examining existing partnerships’ value to NBC. The latter presumably includes Paxson Communications, in which NBC has a nonvoting stake with an option for eventual acquisition. Paxson felt jilted and hemmed in by NBC’s acquisition of Telemundo. Mr. Wright was hesitant on May 22 to comment about Pax TV since he is soon to give his view of the situation to an arbitrator who will hear Paxson’s complaints.
In the announcement about Mr. Zucker’s consolidation on the West Coast, Mr. Wright said, “We are appreciative of the many contributions [Mr. Sassa] has made to NBC.”
Mr. Wright praised Mr. Zucker for having “hit the ground running” when he was promoted from “Today” executive producer and quickly doing what Mr. Sassa had not: getting NBC into the “alternative series game.” Though the genre seems to have cooled, Mr. Zucker got quick hits in “Weakest Link,” no longer on the prime-time schedule, and “Fear Factor,” which has helped make Monday nights work for NBC.
“Jeff is a great producer, showman and innovator,” Mr. Lack said.