Putting aside the question of whether he will ever want to take on Jon Stewart on Comedy Central on behalf of NBC, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker also had these comments to make on the state of its broadcasting, cable and online businesses at the 2009 Business Week Media Summit this morning.
The bottom line on NBC: Two thirds of operating profit come from cable, not broadcast. "We're first and foremost a cable network company,'' he said. Its holdings now include: Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Oxygen, SciFi (soon to be "SyFy") as well as part interest in the A&E, History and Bio networks.
Two of five biggest "broadcast" networks: One NBC-owned cable network, USA, now competes head-on, he contends, with the four biggest over-the-air networks: ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. If you're an advertiser and want mass reach, he said, "you have to be on USA,'' the top-rated cable network.
Jay Leno in prime time: "We wanted to have our cake and eat it too,'' he said. Plans to move Leno to prime time had been looked at in years past, but "technology and viewing habits have changed sufficiently that it made sense now,'' he said.
Conan O'Brien and jail time: No comment on Business Week executive editor Ellen Pollock's biographical note that Zucker once had Leno's successor on The Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien, thrown in jail in Cambridge, Mass., over some dustup. Zucker and O'Brien were media contemporaries at Harvard University: Zucker headed the Harvard Crimson newspaper and O'Brien the satirical Harvard Lampoon. Digital pennies now dimes: Online revenues are getting stronger. Where a year ago he said media companies were replacing conventional dollars with "digital pennies" as they moved online, "I think we're at digital dimes now," he said. This comes after experience with the launch of Hulu, in conjunction with Fox, which has limited commercial interruption of its online TV episodes and movies. But, he said, he's not sure the industry will ever get to a one-to-one replacement of broadcast, cable, print or other media dollars as online businesses grow.
TV.Com versus Hulu: Zucker said he was "hopeful" that NBC television content found on Hulu will be restored to ZDNet sister site TV.com. The content was pulled last month from TV.com, which, like ZDNet, happens to be owned by CBS. Zucker said the two parties have a "clear agreement" that needs to be followed. But gave no specifics.