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Zucker? I Barely Even Know Her!

Jeff Zucker

It was only a matter of time.

Ever since Comcast made clear it wanted to acquire NBC Universal, Jeff Zucker knew he was out the door. After all, GE executives seem to have the lifespan of cockroaches. Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s CEO has weathered waves of criticisms, accusations of shady business practices & stock holder outrage, only to keep afloat. Jeff Zucker has weathered TV season after TV season of ratings and scheduling disasters that have sent NBC into ruins, and gathered a Swiffer’s worth of a dust-up that involved the whole Leno/Conan fiasco last year.

Time after time, season after season, he escaped. Sure, there was always the promise of next season, but those promises just got shadier and shadier as time went on. For having worked at NBC for over 20 years and in nine positions previous to his CEO position, it sure seemed like Zucker was determined to throttle the network into the ground at times.

In Zucker’s tenure, the correlation between quality and ratings became very disparate. But it was also due to the increasingly poor decisions of NBC that some of their best shows are still on the air. “Chuck” was renewed only because all of NBC’s mid-season replacements failed spectacularly. “The Office” wasn’t very popular at first, but they let the show live and it’s now so invaluable to NBC’s bottom-line that they won’t even entertain the thought of cancellation even though its star is leaving the show.

NBC’s most popular show, “The Biggest Loser” gets numbers that would be considered a mediocre performer on another network like CBS. Of course, CBS houses shows that are usually watched by over ten million people. If ten million people watch an episode of an NBC show, and that number is sustained, it’s essentially guaranteed renewal.

But hey, the cable division is doing well, right? I mean, USA is one of the, if not the biggest and highest performing cable network, constantly cranking out hit after increasingly massive hit. Bravo has the culturally popular “Top Chef,”

Of course, while it may be very easy to rag on Zucker, it’s not entirely his fault. Networks in general have been seeing increasingly lower audiences, and other networks have seen quality issues in the last several years. But while ABC found themselves in shows like Modern Family & Greys Anatomy, CBS became happy to live in the procedural world of shows like CSI, and FOX led the reality revolution and brought in the more adult-oriented fare such as “House,” NBC tried bold moves that often resulted in very public failure, and almost all of them came from the mind of Jeff Zucker.

As a result, in six months, Jeff Zucker will leave, but after being forced out. On his way out of the GE building, Zucker will be carrying with him quite the legacy. One of chances, failures and snippets of shining light.

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/24/zucker-announces-departure-from-nbc/

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