By Scott Sassa, Special to TelevisionWeek
They say in the long run talent wins out, and that success that happens once or twice can be attributed to luck. Success over long periods of time is mostly about talent and intelligence. Bob is that blend of talent, intelligence and hard work.
Shortly after Bob joined NBC the wheels fell off. Brandon Tartikoff left, prime time slipped to third place, the news division had the exploding truck scandal. Bob didn’t panic, he didn’t seek advice from “Hollywood power brokers,” he just figured it out himself. He had the intelligence and conviction to make some very tough decisions and take the network back to No. 1 in prime time, news, early morning and late-night.
This success wasn’t fleeting, either. For many years the three networks switched from first to third to second to first. NBC had an unprecedented run from the mid- 1990s through the early 2000s of being a dominant No. 1 in households, young demos and upscale demos. No company in modern media has compiled a record anywhere close to this. Given the number of channels today, it’s like winning the Super Bowl for eight years in a row in a world of free agents and salary caps. No one will ever come close to Bob’s record.
Finally, Bob created an environment where winning in ratings went hand-in-hand with making money. More than one competing network programming head told me that their orders were to be No. 1 and break even. It’s not hard to run a network to only win in ratings; it’s not hard to run a network just to make money; the hard part is to have the skill to do both at the same time. That’s what’s good management is about. Under Bob NBC Entertainment was the first network Entertainment division to make over $500 million. And they did it for seven years in a row.
I’m thankful for the time I was lucky enough to spend with Bob. His vision—which allowed NBC to grow into cable and digital and prosper as a stand-alone media company while the other two big networks were acquired—will be missed. There’s no question that we will continue to hear about great things that Suzanne and Bob do beyond NBC. I’m excited to see what they accomplish.
Scott Sassa is founder and CEO of uber.com. He was president of NBC West Coast from 1999 to 2002.