Friday, March 20, 2009

AOL's TV Squad Says Zucker Must Go

NBC's Jeff Zucker has given up

Did you hear this one, folks? NBC is throwing in the towel. The boss of bosses, NBC Universal CEO, the head honcho himself, Jeff Zucker, was at an industry event recently and declared, "I don't think we'll ever be able to say, 'NBC is number one in prime time.'"

Okay, there it is. The man has given up. He's basically admitting that his product is inferior and he doesn't think he'll ever catch up with his competitors. So, as a TV viewer, I have to wonder why I should invest in anything Zucker churns out at NBC if he doesn't believe that he's ever going to be number one again?

Think about it, would you want to eat dinner at a restaurant where the chef thinks he's never going to be the best in the business? If you were looking for fill the top spot at a network, is this the executive you would want in charge?

I've been down on Zucker before. I think the Jay Leno in prime time, five nights a week, is a mistake and I don't like the idea of NBC abdicating the 10 o'clock hour to the other networks. I don't care that this was an idea floated in the 1980's with Johnny Carson. It was a dumb idea then and it's a dumb idea now. If it turns out to be a success, I'll eat my mouse, okay?

But here's the thing about Zucker; he's a defeatist. Why isn't he fighting to make NBC the number one network again? I get all the new media/new business model malarky that he extols. The days of big ratings might be in the past, but how does he explain Fox's American Idol or CBS's success with all the CSIs? These shows are not apparitions. NBC could bounce back to the top. It's not out of the realm of possibility, but not when you have a CEO who is running up a white flag of surrender.

Here's my suggestion for NBC Universal: offer Jeff Zucker early retirement. Send him away. Get someone who has the fire and desire to get NBC back to number one, someone who has the vision to develop the TV shows and program them with an eye to long-term success. Zucker's had more than enough chances and while there was a time when NBC could at least claim victory in demographics and the bottom line, these days the network is just looking sad.

I want NBC back. I want the next Seinfeld or Cosby or ER or Heroes (like it was in season one), but it's not going to happen with Jeff -- "we'll never be number one again" -- Zucker at the helm!

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