CEO Critical of Apple to Leave NBC

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Jeff Zucker

Jeff Zucker

Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal, will be stepping down from his position once Comcast has finalized its purchase of 51% of the media company. Mr. Zucker, who has often been critical of Apple and argued at one time that Apple should have to pay media companies a portion of iPod hardware sales, told employees he would be leaving the company, and that it wasn’t his choice.

Mr. Zucker has had good times and bad at NBCU, the only company he has ever worked for, according to The New York Times. On the up side, he brought The Today Show to prominence as producer. He has also overseen the rise of NBC’s cable programming, including the USA, SyFy, Bravo, and Oxygen networks, which combine to generate some 80% of his company’s profits.

On the down side, he systematically dismantled NBC’s prime time dominance and “Must See TV” programming in favor of scads of reality TV programming, which coincided with the network watching its ratings plummet. Mr. Zucker was also in charge of the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno late night programming debacle that has resulted in NBC paying Mr. O’Brien to leave while Mr. Leno generates the lowest ratings in Tonight Show history.

When it comes to Apple, Mr. Zucker was recently critical of Apple’s iTunes TV rental service where users can rent TV shows from the iTunes Store for US$0.99 through a new Apple TV settop box. Mr. Zucker said that such a pricing scheme devalues his company’s content, even while lauding a deal with Netflix that brings more NBC Universal TV content to that company’s unlimited streaming service for a set price as low as $8.99 per month.

He also was behind NBC’s decision to pull its TV programming out of the iTunes Stores in 2007 after Apple refused to raise prices on the NBC shows available for purchase through iTunes. NBC wanted a wholesale price that would have resulted in retail prices as high as $4.99 per episode, more than twice the $1.99 set price Apple offers for online purchases.

NBC then launched its own digital delivery vehicle in conjunction with Fox, Hulu, which offers some shows for free, with commercials (the company recently began offering more shows in a more timely fashion for $9.99 per month). After launching Hulu, NBC came back to iTunes at the same prices as before.

Mr. Zucker admitted that leaving NBC wasn’t his choice — Comcast is apparently intent on installing its own management team at NBC after it completes its takeover of the company. Whether or not Mr. Zucker’s replacement will be any friendlier with Apple remains to be seen, as iTunes is increasingly a competitor of Comcast’s core business of delivering TV and movie content to homes.

Comments

xmattingly

On the down side, he systematically dismantled NBC?s prime time dominance and ?Must See TV? programming in favor of scads of reality TV programming

I blame Zucker for the downfall of human civilization… well, that might be a bit of a stretch, but he did set us back at least a few hundred years w/ all the reality TV! :D

Intruder

Not sure how the content could be devalued any further than it already is.

JohnLCP

Another greedy, out-of-tune CEO with the public, bites the dust.

rabber

Be careful what you wish for. While Zucker was no friend to Apple, I fear that his replacement will be worse because of the Comcast competition. Also, what will happen if the FTC decides to not allow Comcast to purchase NBC?

iJack

Another greedy, out-of-tune CEO with the public, bites the dust.

You couldn’t have phrased that any more awkwardly if you had tried.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Intruder: Zucker’s statement about the content being devalued is like the hot girl turning down the geeky guy “because he’s too good for her”. It’s actually worse than that, because as she takes a drag off her cigarette, she tells her friend about how she told that to Poindexter, and that he is now telling people just how great he is that the hot chick isn’t good enough for him.

Zucker is purposefully lying and really rubbing Apple’s nose in it. You guys are just looking at his statement too literally to see. He is saying that he does not trust Apple to have a unified content presence in TV as is does in music.

Intruder

No. I’m saying that, in general, NBC programming sucks. They used to be the top. Some of their current shows are good (30 Rock, for instance), But the whole “reality TV” schtick is worthless.

Not sure what you’re on about. Except, of course, that Apple is evil.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Ah, this is rich. No, there is not an “Apple is evil” point here. You’re just falling into the same old Steve Jobs trap. “in general, NBC programming sucks” is this month’s version of “Adobe is lazy”.

Perhaps you have a short memory about the last time NBCU pulled content from iTunes. No Battlestar for more than a year. Is that the NBC programming that jut sucked? Because it is precisely what brought them back.

The fact about the media business in relation to Apple is that while Apple’s customers will pay a premium and give up flexibility in order to have beautiful, *magical* Apple products, the media companies aren’t all going to bend over to Apple’s whims. Zucker is absolutely playing the Apple fanatics like a fiddle. There is no doubt in my mind that before he leaves, he will allow rentals of NBCU shows at the Apple price point through another distribution channel. You’ll need that box to rent Caprica or Eureka or The Rachel Maddow Show or any of the other NBCU shows that you actually really love. And that will put Zucker in a position to dictate terms to Apple.

Mark the date. I am calling his shot.

Intruder

Wow, Brad. You just can’t accept that it is possible for a statement to have absolutely nothing to do with Apple. At no point did I say anything about Jobs or Apple. My comment was solely about the state of NBC programming, and in particular about the garbage that is “reality TV”. You are the one making it about Apple.

Careful. Steve Jobs is hiding under your bed.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Intruder, you can’t accept that not everybody thinks Apple is wonderful and *magical*. So if they don’t fall into line with the Apple way, we can count on you (or other fanbots, see Gruber) to just say they suck and aren’t worth dealing with anyway.

Don’t you think that the “well they suck anyway” response is just a little arrogant? I saw it in a recent thread about Wired and SI, when I posted indications that both would revert back to their Flash based platforms for their iPad apps. “Well, they suck anyway”. Yeah, but the Wired app sold 50,000 or so copies despite being 10x as big as it would be with a Flash/AIR deployment, and the SI app got all sorts of accolades for embracing HTML5 despite not working in portrait mode. They were the two original flagship magazine apps for iPad, and now, given the choice to do it Apple’s way or the tried and true way, they’re opting for the latter.

Anyway, this is just my latest “observation”. I think Zucker has found a string to pull and is pulling it masterfully. I think others who are confronted with Apple’s NIH attitudes on things will start pulling that string as well. I’ll point it out as I see it. grin

bweels

Come on, Intruder, when will you learn that Bosco not only knows what you SHOULD be thinking - he knows what you ARE thinking and knows EXACTLY what you mean even when you yourself do not. We’re so lucky to have him around here to guide us and set us straight. Surely without him we’d just be poor, lost Apple lemmings.

rolleyes

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@bweels: What I love about the peanut gallery on TMO is that it’s so predictable to the point of boring that if you say something that isn’t 100% supportive of Apple, they come out and give a midget’s effort at dunking on you.

Here’s the bottom line. Those of you who buy this iteration of Apple TV will be without NBCU content, which you will have to get from another box which will pollute your otherwise pristine approved by Apple living rooms. You will be without it because some content providers don’t trust Apple. They don’t trust Apple because of Apple’s track record as a partner, not because they are stupid or because they don’t have anything worth watching anyway.

Now, would you like to address the point of contention?

Intruder

Again I ask where i said ANYTHING about Apple. I was commenting on the quality of NBCs offerings (in particular their prime time offerings). You started the rant about Apple.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Where did I say you did? It’s hard for me to believe that your comment about NBCU content is not elicited because they aren’t playing Apple’s game the way Apple wants. Your statement just proves my point that if some company doesn’t do as Apple asks, the fanboys will pile on. It’s actually a pattern. Funny how now you’ve backtracked to the NBC primetime offerings. I’ll take the points for pointing out that it’s but a small subset of NBCU content that won’t be available on your Apple TV.

Of course, the big unfounded rumor of the day is that it will be available on Roku via Hulu. You’d almost think I come at you guys with inside information…

Intruder

My comment is exactly as stated with no hidden meanings. I really couldn’t care less about the old battle between Apple and NBCU. I don’t have an AppleTV, and I don’t watch rented TV episodes on my computer. Whether or not their stuff is available on iTunes means nothing to me.

  You truly are blinded by your hatred of Apple and/or Jobs. You are now making up arguments and putting words in my mouth. You seem to want to use this site as a forum for you continued rants against Apple and Jobs, despite the fact that nobody even brought them up in the thread.

It is getting tiresome.

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