Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NBCU solidifies its TV structure - Silverman out, finally

As I noted in April in March at the Media Summit conference Zucker said: "We are, first and foremost, a cable network company." Today it was announced that Zucker put NBC under the control of of his cable operations boss.

You can read this from many sources but The Hollywood Reporter broke it up into two articles. First we have from Ben Silverman out at NBC Universal:
After a rocky two-year tenure, Ben Silverman stepped down Monday as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios to launch a company with Internet mogul Barry Diller.

NBC Universal is consolidating all of its TV entertainment operations under company veteran Jeff Gaspin, who has been named chairman of the combined new division, NBC Universal Television Entertainment. The move gives Gaspin oversight of NBC and UMS, with Marc Graboff -- who ran the units with Silverman -- now reporting to him.
"A rocky two-year tenure" is a generous description of what's happened to NBC in the past two years.

From Jeff Gaspin is a change of pace: New NBC Uni TV chief brings buttoned-down efficiency:
With the surprise selection of Jeff Gaspin to add oversight of NBC Universal's broadcast business to the cable division, CEO Jeff Zucker is elevating an executive who might be the antithesis of outgoing programming chief Ben Silverman.

If Silverman is the brash showman with little to show off, the buttoned-down Gaspin prefers to let the revenue generated by NBC Uni's booming cable business speak for itself. In the second quarter recently reported by General Electric, Gaspin's cable division defied the downward trend dragging down NBC Uni by posting a 7% year-over-year increase in operating profit compared with 2008, to $595 million.
"Surprise selection?" Only in Hollywood would someone think that making money in an economic downturn is a surprising criteria to use to pick someone to replace a loser. While President/CEO of NBC Universal Jeff Zucker has supported Silverman's cost cutting, profit-centered moves such as vertical integration, from MediaPost here's his comment about putting Gaspin in charge:
"Jeff Gaspin is an extraordinary media professional who has had an incredible record of success in his 25 years in the business. He's a strong creative executive who also has the business acumen necessary to succeed in today's media environment. This new structure helps us align all of our television entertainment assets under one veteran executive at a time when continued innovation is essential."
The big question is: "Can Gaspin bail out NBC?" Will he continue the network's slow march to become become only or mostly news, sports, and televaudeville as I predicted in November 2007? Or will he ultimately solidify the two-hour prime-time model that is the standard on cable, leaving the 10:00 pm slot to "Leno" or if that doesn't work to the locals?

It's been my opinion for some time now that Zucker's NBCU is the future of TV meaning:
  • A variety of cable channels under one roof as NBCU cable channels include, among others, Bravo, Universal HD, Chiller, CNBC, MSNBC, Syfy (formerly SciFi), Telemundo, Sleuth, and USA. NBCU is 25% owner of the A&E television networks which includes, among others, the cable channels A&E, History Channel, and the Biography Channel.
  • A strong web presence in the form of Hulu and each channel's own web site.
  • A broadcast network structure that places a greater burden on the local broadcast station in the hinterlands to find programming while the NBC owned large market broadcast stations produce and sell to local advertisers local-interest programming.
Regarding the competition, it appears that CBS will focus on retaining its top position in the broadcast network business with the most viewers.

News Corp with Fox focused on the two hour primetime will now compete with NBC and The CW for that "18-49 demo" which is a declining audience. And News Corp was a co-founder of Hulu and has a prime time cable presence with FX. It's as if these two competitors are focused on the same model.

Disney with ABC, still in the three hour primetime model, will compete with CBS for total viewers though one has to wonder if they are dividing their audience into some kind of family model - Disney Channel viewers (kids, mostly), ABC Family (pre-teens and teens, mostly which competes with The CW), and ABC (family oriented adults). Disney does have a strong online presence.

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