Zucker Touts NBCU Strengths, Deflects Succession Talk

Dec 4, 2006  •  Post A Comment

NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker tried to deflect attention from the odds of him succeeding NBCU Chairman and CEO Bob Wright Monday.

A few minutes after being depicted as “the next CEO” at the Credit Suisse Media and Telecom Week conference in New York City, Mr. Zucker told reporters: “I am not focused on the top job.”

Instead, the executive talked about the strength of NBCU’s cable properties, the promise of NBC prime time, the many opportunities and need for growth on the digital side of the business; and the continuing importance of TV to NBCU and especially its advertisers.

“Television remains a critical component of any brand’s advertising plan” if they want to reach the broadest and easiest-to-corral audience, Mr. Zucker said.

He said NBC has been “pleasantly surprised” by the performance of NBCU shows such as the freshman hit “Heroes” and “The Office” on such platforms as iTunes and NBC.com. “We’re going to have to explore both,” he said.

Mr. Zucker predicted that digital revenues, including advertising, Internet assets and download-to-own and wireless products, will add up to $300 million to $400 million the end of this next year and as much as $1 billion by 2009.

Outfitting NBCU for the digital future was one of the goals of the recently announced NBCU 2.0, which also seeks to cut 700 jobs and $750 million per year by the end of 2008.

The return of National Football League programming to NBC this fall has been the shot in the ratings arm Mr. Zucker had envisioned and has contributed to NBC’s re-energized prime-time performance this season, but it seems not to be a big pot of gold in and of itself. “I think when you add in the stations’ [NFL-related] revenues and everything, it will turn a slight profit,” Mr. Zucker said.