NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker said he’d like to keep Jay Leno in the NBCU family and “we are in those conversations now,” but he also said flatly: “Late Night” host “Conan O’Brien will take over ‘The Tonight Show’ in 2009.”
Three years after the pivotal late-night transition was announced, Mr. Leno has begun to make clear that he has no intention of retiring from TV. Fox Broadcasting already has expressed interest in offering Mr. Leno a new home.
In what amounted to an hour-long lightning round of timely questions put to him by the New Yorker’s media writer Ken Auletta at a breakfast staged by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School in New York, Mr. Zucker also said:
“It’ll be a real watershed event as to whether people come back to scripted television” in healthy numbers after a strike at the beginning of a season already struggling with widespread erosion, Mr. Zucker said.
He said NBCU’s decision to stop making its content available to Apple iTunes boiled down to a “serious disagreement” about price point and profit sharing. Despite NBCU being the source of about 40 percent of the content sold, at $1.99 per download, it produced only a $15 million cut for NBCU last year. Mr. Zucker said NBCU had sought to take one show out for $2.99 as an experiment, but Apple would not budge. “That made it an easier decision,” Mr. Zucker said.
Hulu.com, the content downloading partnership NBCU and Fox began testing Monday, is an attempt to offer “superstore” appeal to consumers and a “safe” environment to advertisers.
Asked whether FBN isn’t like the New York Post’s edgy business section, which former G.E. Chairman Jack Welch once declared he liked, Mr. Zucker said: “I work for Jeffrey Immelt, not Jack Welch.”