In two decades at NBC, Jeff Zucker has risen from researcher at the Seoul Olympics to president and CEO of NBC Universal, a position that will require him to become fluent in the lingo of the worlds of film and theme parks.
It speaks volumes about the rapidity of his ascent that among his direct reports, the number of people who are younger than the 41-year-old executive can be counted on one hand, perhaps even a couple of fingers.
After his appointment last Tuesday he talked with TelevisionWeek National Editor Michele Greppi about how most steps up in his career “just happened,” how he had no designs on the big job until the past year and about the number of issues facing him and NBC Universal.
TelevisionWeek: In our best Chris Matthews voice, we’re saying, “Tell me something I don’t know about the next year.”
Jeff Zucker: I believe the momentum with NBC’s prime-time lineup and with Universal’s film slate will continue to improve.
TVWeek: What will be NBC Universal’s biggest success/improvement story in your first year as all-high mucky-muck?
Mr. Zucker: See answer to Question 1.
TVWeek: What will be NBC Universal’s retransmission strategy moving forward?
Mr. Zucker: I obviously don’t want to talk about this too much publicly, but as you know this company has vast — half of this company’s assets are on the cable side. That’s one of the more under-reported stories about this company, which is that half of this company’s operating profit is derived from those cable entities. That puts us in a slightly different position than others when it comes to retrans. Retrans is a very important part of who we are and who we will be.
TVWeek: Fox News announced last week it will launch its business news channel this year. What will be CNBC’s greatest strength and vulnerability?
Mr. Zucker: I think the fact that we have spent the last two years getting our house in order at CNBC and the fact that CNBC’s performance is demonstrably better than it has been, up more than 150 percent from its low point a few years ago, is the best response to anyone who wants to come into that world.