Outgoing NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright feels good about the company’s condition as he hands the reins over to his replacement, Jeff Zucker.
Over a 21-year career at NBCU, Wright built up a diverse array of entertainment properties, which he says position the company to succeed in the new era of digital delivery. That is, just as soon as someone can figure out how to monetize the space and prevent piracy, against which he is one the of the industry’s most outspoken leaders.
And while he is stepping aside at NBCU, the 63-year-old does not speak like a man ready to put an end to one of the more distinguished careers in the industry.
In a conversation with B&C’s Ben Grossman late last week, Wright discussed his most cherished accomplishments, the outlook for Zucker and NBCU, and what his next act may be.
What is the legacy you leave behind?
I feel very proud of what we have been able to accomplish. This is not my company, I don’t own this company. I’ve had access to a tremendous amount of resources for the last 21 years, and I’ve tried to utilize those resources as best I can. With the help of a lot of people, I think we have really put something together. I think it’s novel because it’s inside of General Electric and, from the day the RCA merger happened, people said this isn’t going to work. So, for a company that was sort of fighting uphill all the way with certain groups of people, and some of them were investors and some of them weren’t, it is a tribute to the energy of a lot of people that we were able to put together in this extremely capable company. It’s actually a company that is very well-prepared to deal with what is going to happen next.
So will someone crack the model to monetize new media, and everyone will just follow?
The difficulty is that everybody wants to accelerate what’s going to happen with digital, but it isn’t there yet. I think [GE Chairman/CEO Jeffrey] Immelt said it is in the first inning, and that’s probably right. Disney had these fantastic quarterly results, and I don’t take anything away from them, but, in those results, they said the total sales from all iPod activities—and they are the leaders for the obvious reason—was $25 million. They can’t move the Disney figures around for that.