The future of NBC Universal sans Zucker

Jeff Zucker appears before the Senate Antitrust Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee for a hearing on the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC Universal on Capitol Hill Feb. 4, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

Bob Moon: Some drama today to cap off the debut week of the new television season: Two TV big shots were canceled. At CNN, President Jon Klein is out. And I've been waiting all day for some kind of tweet from Conan O'Brien about this one: His former boss at NBC, Jeff Zucker, is leaving the peacock network. Zucker has been with NBC since the 1980s and the man at the top since 2007.

Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson has more.


Jeremy Hobson: If there's one tie that binds these two ousters, it's this.

Jon Lafayette: In television, the ratings numbers really count.

Jon Lafayette is the business editor at Broadcasting and Cable Magazine.

Lafayette: CNN has fallen behind Fox News obviously, and they've been overtaken by MSNBC, particularly in prime time. And NBC was the fourth-rated network last year, and you know, not so long ago, they were a dominant number one.

One reason for those falling ratings at NBC, Lafayette says, was a short-lived experiment Jeff Zucker will always be remembered for: Putting Jay Leno on at 10 p.m. But remember, with a likely takeover from Comcast, Zucker probably would have been replaced anyway.

As for Jon Klein's departure from CNN, analysts say one reason was his decision to move away from spicy opinion shows in prime time and opt for a more middle-of-the-road news approach with mainstays like Larry King.

Larry King: Why did you change your name -- how did you come up with Lady Gaga?

The future for both companies will probably be all about efficiency. Bill Carroll is the director of programming at the Katz Television Group.

Carroll: In the same way that every industry is looking at what's the most efficient way of providing the best product, that's what's going to start to happen and has started to happen.

For CNN, Carroll says that means leaner reporting teams and perhaps a link-up with a broadcast network. For NBC under Comcast, he anticipates more overlap on the entertainment side between cable and broadcast channels.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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