I just hung up with a top agent at CAA, and all he or anyone with a black BMW and dinner reservation at Koi can talk about is the new Kurt Andersen piece in New York magazine.
It’s all about the endorphin-rich days of NBC TV netork capo Jeff Zucker, and how Zucker is deftly trying to remove the little laser-red dot on his forehead (emanating brightly from Jeffrey Immelt’s Parker Hale Model 85 sniper rifle) – and perhaps (talent agents I spoke with muse) – guide it instead onto the chalk-striped suit-back of NBC chairman Bob Wright.
One of the basic precepts of GE under Jack Welsh, Andersen points out, is to “try to make the problem disappear by giving it to someone else to solve.” Zucker appears to have absorbed that lesson by letting Kevin Reilly make the end of “Friends” and “Frasier” that his problem – one compounded by “Today” becoming toast, “Martha Stewart” showing up DOA, and “The Apprentice” fast fading.
Last year, NBC’s prime-time audience shrank by 11 percent, sending it from No. 1 to No. 4 in the season ratings, a more extreme reversal of fortune than had ever befallen any network—at the same time that (not coincidentally) Today’s lead over Good Morning America shriveled. The punch line to the annus horribilis came in May, when NBC’s “upfront” revenues—from the advance sales of ads for the season starting now—plummeted: The company had budgeted a drop of several hundred million dollars, but the loss turned out to be twice that.
Yowza! Guess on second thought, Zucker shouldn’t have passed on “Desperate Housewives,” eh?
The irony is that some channel chiefs at NBC Universal (which now includes Sci-Fi and USA, too) fear that the default reaction of Wright and GE might be to spend less on TV – the last thing the company needs in a creativity crunch. Paradoxically, that might be the reaction that lead to the ascent of Zucker to Wright’s gig.
Ye gads! The pole at NBC television has never been so greasy! We at Fishbowl crave some digital Purell – pronto!