NBC Uni casts TV power trio
Zucker solidifies top execs' rolesNewly installed NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker announced his new cabinet Thursday, promoting three executives in a realignment of the conglomerate's television and digital operations.
Beth Comstock, Marc Graboff and Jeff Gaspin are all taking on additional responsibilities under Zucker, who was appointed NBC Uni president and CEO this month by parent company General Electric. He succeeds Bob Wright, who continues as vice chairman at GE.
While Graboff remains president of NBC Uni Television, West Coast, his area of responsibility now expands to all aspects of NBC's entertainment division, the television studio and the marketing division. NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly, NBC Uni TV Studio president Angela Bromstad and NBC Agency president/chief marketing officer John Miller now report solely to Graboff — instead of a split line of reporting to Graboff in business-related matters and Zucker on creative and programming concerns.
Comstock, previously president of digital media and market development, has shifted to the new position of president of integrated media, where she will extend her oversight to advertising sales.
Gaspin, whose title was president of cable entertainment, digital content and cross-network strategy, is now president of cable and digital content.
"With my new responsibilities, I am making some organizational adjustments to set us up for continued momentum and growth," Zucker said. "Fortunately, we have a tremendous bench of skilled executives."
The structural changes reflect more than Zucker reassigning his responsibilities at NBC Uni TV. The division was hit with a string of defections by senior execs late last year, including president and COO Randy Falco, who left to run AOL; David Zaslav, president of cable, domestic TV and new-media distribution, who left to run Discovery Communications; and president of advertising sales Keith Turner. Moreover, the conglomerate continues to adjust to advances in digital media while rebounding from broad cuts to its work force announced last year.
Comstock, who was considered a potential rival to Zucker for the top job when she came over from GE in December 2005, will now report to him with digital media and ad sales under her belt. Michael Pilot, who replaced Turner as president of advertising sales, now reports to her and takes on additional responsibilities as well. Barbara Blangiardi, senior vp strategic marketing and content innovation, now will report to Pilot.
Continuing to report to Comstock are George Kliavkoff, chief digital officer; Alan Wurtzel, president of research; and Deborah Fine, president of iVillage Properties.
Comstock sees folding ad sales into her new portfolio as the optimal way to respond to growing demand from advertisers for a set of marketing platforms that extend beyond television.
"What we're trying to do by combining these groups together is take advantage of what we're learning on the digital side and marrying it with the needs of marketers and agency clients," she said.
Under Comstock's direction, the realigned division will continue to expand the "NBC 360" offerings the company introduced at its last upfront. A renewed push to incorporate mobile offerings to TV and broadband likely will be in the offing.
The expansion of Graboff's purview consolidates his authority as the top executive overseeing the NBC broadcast network and related divisions. A lawyer and business affairs exec by training, Graboff said he has no intention of diving into the nitty-gritty of creative matters with Reilly and Bromstad but rather will focus on helping them navigate the upheaval in the traditional programming and production businesses wrought by new media and emerging entertainment platforms.
"They don't need another person sitting in casting sessions," Graboff said. "I'm going to continue to focus on things like reinventing the broadcast network business model, the cost structure of how we produce programming at the studio, how we monetize our shows, how we sell our shows with integration beyond the 30-second spot. I'll be busy."
Still to be resolved, however, is the question of Reilly's long-term future with NBC. Sources said Zucker and Graboff are in negotiations on a new employment contract with Reilly, but it's also understood that Reilly has at times been frustrated by structural issues within the NBC Entertainment division and has at times clashed on creative matters with Bromstad.
Reilly is well-regarded in the industry and credited with revitalizing NBC's primetime schedule during the past two seasons with such well-received shows as "My Name Is Earl," "The Office," "30 Rock," "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and this season's sleeper hit, "Heroes." Reilly declined comment Thursday.
In taking on oversight of the NBC Agency operations, Graboff said he intends to have the peacock's marketing mavens be much more involved in the program-development process from the outset in an effort to generate more comprehensive and creative marketing campaigns. Given the proliferation of digital media options, it makes sense for marketing-minded executives to have a seat at the table as program concepts are developed rather than after the pilot is largely completed.
"To the extent that marketing of our shows and the marketing of our brand leads to revenue generation, I think it's important that we try to get the NBC Agency integrated into network and studio much more than they have been," Graboff said.
On the cable front, Gaspin finds himself with an oversight role on the programming and distribution side of cable and digital now that he will take over the distribution duties once handled by Zaslav. Although he is formally dropping the "cross network" aspect of his title, he notes that digital more than encompasses that strategic role.
"Cross-network is not as simple anymore as just broadcast and cable," Gaspin said. "Look at 'Heroes,' where an episode goes to NBC, Sci Fi Channel, iTunes and NBC.com. It's gotten bigger."
Reporting to Gaspin on the distribution side are Bridget Baker, president of television networks distribution, and Jean-Briac Perrette, president of digital distribution. Perrette has a dual role, also reporting to Kliavkoff.
On the content side, continuing to report to Gaspin are Bonnie Hammer, president of USA Network and Sci Fi Channel; Lauren Zalaznick, president of Bravo; Dan Harrison, senior vp emerging networks; and Vivi Zigler, executive vp digital entertainment and new media.
The digital overlap between Gaspin and Comstock is best understood as Comstock defining what NBC Uni's content needs are on that platform, while Gaspin's division produces the requested content.
Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.