Jeff Zucker: The 'Big Issue' That Delayed the Comcast-NBC Deal

6:30 AM PST 11/18/2010 by Georg Szalai
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

He also says his exec choices to run NBC entertainment were his biggest mistakes at the network.

NEW YORK - NBC Universal and Comcast are "in the end game" of the regulatory review of their planned deal with the key conditions on the combination likely to come in the online video realm, outgoing NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker said here Thursday.

"The big issue is the future of online video and what are going to be the conditions on the deal around that," he said at the Paley Center for Media's International Council Meeting. There are other issues that the regulatory agencies are looking at as well, he acknowledged.

Zucker predicted that the daily talks between the companies and officials in Washington DC should lead to final decisions in the next two weeks or so to wrap up the review by year's end, he suggested, although he also acknowledged that the deal approval could slip into 2011.

Asked about which executives are officially in and out at NBC Uni once Comcast takes over, Zucker quipped: "I think there might be some announcements today or something." He added that it isn't his announcement to make though. Comcast was expected to make an announcement on key executives as early as Wednesday.

Zucker also made some jokes about his upcoming departure as Comcast COO Steve Burke will take over the NBC Uni CEO role. "I got all the time in the world these days," he joked in the Thursday conversation with CNBC host Jim Cramer. "I still have some authority, you know, by the way."

Once again asked about his biggest mistake, Zucker said it was his choice of executives to run NBC Entertainment, which he said he didn't manage to turn around. 

Discussing success criteria for the digital age, he highlighted the need for strong content and brands.

For example, in the digital age TV network schedules may disappear over time. “Broadcast networks will have schedules for next few years, but in an on-demand world, content matters more than schedules,” he said.

With former Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner producing Web shows and shock jockey Howard Stern having years ago moved from terrestrial to satellite radio, Zucker particularly liked Stern's chances. "You know what matters more than anything? Brand," he told the audience. "NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, those are brands and they resonate with viewers." However, self-made media producers with Flip cameras or the like have to become a brand to succeed, Zucker suggested.

Asked whether cord cutting is a real threat for cable and content firms, he said "we're not newspapers" and TV is not in trouble. "I don't think it's a major problem today," Zucker said.

 

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