NBC: A busy newsgatherer

N.Y., Uni Studios consolidations

NEW YORK -- When NBC News' planned facility at Universal City becomes operational in 2011, it will have as its model the NBC News World Headquarters that was unveiled Thursday at 30 Rockefeller Center.

Six months in construction, the facility on the third and fourth floors of the Manhattan landmark will provide the latest in digital and high-definition production facilities and unite the East Coast operations of NBC News. MSNBC, for a decade based across the Hudson River in New Jersey, is moving to 30 Rock.

"We wanted to have everybody under one roof, sharing technical services and again, being greater than the individual parts," NBC News president Steve Capus said.

NBC Uni chief Jeff Zucker, a veteran of the news division, said at a ceremony Thursday night that the new third-floor studio is a giant leap forward from the space he knew 20 years ago.

"NBC News has always been a world-class news organization, and now it has a world-class facility," Zucker said.

Also speaking were Capus, anchor Brian Williams, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg pitched Zucker on a primetime show starring himself and said that he was happy that MSNBC was leaving New Jersey, though he still has respect for the state.

"There are a lot of electoral votes in New Jersey," he joked, alluding to rumors that he would jump into the 2008 presidential race. Bloomberg said he was just kidding.

The New York facility has 8,500 square feet of studio space, 280 high-definition monitors and six HD projectors, with a 50-foot platform for the MSNBC anchor spot. Studio 3A will be the production site for MSNBC, while "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" will originate from Studio 3C.

The fact that NBC News and MSNBC producers are working close to one another, providing a seamless transition, is one of his favorite parts of the project, Capus said.

"When you walk down the third floor (aisle), you see 'Nightly News' producers, then MSNBC producers," he said. "That's been a dream of mine, to have all of these talented news producers working together and thriving on the collective energy of this massive news organization." Some already have started working from the space, though MSNBC and "NBC Nightly News" turn on the lights on Oct. 22.

It will take five years for the Universal City facility to open, but Capus is no less enthusiastic about its prospects. The new facility will be located at the Red Line Subway Station in Universal City, directly across the street from Universal Studios. It will bring together NBC News' West Coast operations with newsgathering, broadcasting, editing and production for both network and local news operations as well as NBC News' West Coast Bureau, plus KNBC, KVEA and "Access Hollywood."

There also will be a streetside studio like "Today" employs at 30 Rock, where "Today" and "NBC Nightly News" will originate when they're on the West Coast.

Capus said that there's been a lot of talk about budget cuts and NBC 2.0, but that the reason those initiatives were being taken were so that investments in NBC's future could be undertaken.

(The Universal City facility) "is a true, demonstrated commitment that we're in this for the long haul and we're going to give the people who work for NBC News and our related news and information partners the best possible tools to do their jobs," Capus said.

By 2011, the vast majority of NBC's operations based in Burbank, including programming, publicity and promotions, will move to Universal. While the move was expected following NBC's 2004 acquisition of Universal, it marks an end of era: NBC has been based in Burbank for 50 years and has helped put the city on the map.

NBC Uni is now selling a major portion of its 34-acre studio lot in Burbank, including the NBC Studios at 3000 W. Alameda Ave., with a potential buyer said to already be in negotiations. As part of the deal, NBC will be able to lease back facilities, including Stage 3, home of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." The late-night talk show will remain there until its end in 2009. Its successor, "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien," will be filmed on the renovated and expanded Stage One on the Universal lot, which originally was built in 1961 for "The Jack Benny Show."

Nellie Andreeva in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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