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Radar: The Fall of Jeff Zucker, The Rise of Angelina’s Hair

Radar Winter 2005, Take IV.jpgA hair-raising new issue of Radar is coming up, scaring up the story on the cult-inducing Tyra Banks, the Democratic party’s search for the anti-Hillary by the Judy-Miller-and-Tim Russert-hounding Arianna Huffington (girlfriend goes from strength to strength), the obligatory Paris article, and a comprehensive, devastating story on the spiralling decline of NBC golden boy Jeff Zucker, under whose watch the once-proud Peacock is suddenly foundering. It’s true that “Today” is still number one, but by a relative hair after the ratings war of the spring, and the news division was “essentially leaderless” after rumors of struggling news division president Neal Shapiro’s oh-it-didn’t-happen?-well-any-day-now ouster was broken by the New York Times in May. John Cook reports that it was “widely believed” at NBC that Zucker was the source of the leak:

“Jeff took a situation and clearly made it much worse,” complains an NBC News correspondent. “It emasculated the news division. This was Jeff losing his temper and leaking news of Neal’s demise before it happened.”

Also lost: primetime viewers, ad dollars, and massive amounts of cred, which Zucker used to have in spades. That plummeted particularly after the upfronts, when a lackluster new fall season was unveiled (only 6 new shows; “defying logic, Thursday night remains unchanged from last season”) plus a “$1 billion falloff in preseason ad sales.” Eek. Now, says Cook, Zucker’s place at NBC is a shaky one, his once-cozy relationship with Katie Couric, with whom he’d risen at NBC with the surpassing achievements of “Today,” gone sour, the confidence of NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright shaken by the news division debacle, and apparently it’s open season on his job: “by early fall NBC appeared to be shopping his job around: Rumors were circulating through the Rockefeller Center head-quarters that it had already been offered to two other people.” Eek again.

But the biggest eek is reserved for Jeffrey Immelt, GE CEO and NBC Parent:

Immelt recently implied that Zucker’s job is on the line, according to an analyst who covers GE. “Jeff Zucker’s looking for guys to throw in front of the train,” says the analyst. “That doesn’t work with Immelt. He’s got a silver bullet with Zucker’s name on it.”

This article went out to a whole bunch of people yesterday. Seriously. You don’t want to be Jeff Zucker this morning.

UPDATE: We’ve been informated by the belt-buckle-icious Hudson Morgan that it was actually his boss man Lloyd Grove who broke the Neal Shapiro-firing scoop, for which the NYT duly credited him in their subsequent piece. Thanks Hud!

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