The Wright Way
Twenty-one years later, Bob Wright looks back as NBC Universal looks ahead
By Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/22/2007 8:00:00 PM
The company Bob Wright is leaving is far different from the NBC he joined as CEO in 1986. When General Electric acquired RCA, it appeared that the regimented management style favored by GE would be vinegar at a broadcast network.
Back then, NBC was soaring with a flock of hits, including The Cosby Show, Miami Vice, L.A. Law, Cheers and Hill Street Blues. TV didn't get much better than that, so when Wright replaced Grant Tinker at NBC, he wasn't exactly embraced at the network.
Twenty-one years later, as Wright departs as chairman of NBC Universal at the end of this month (he relinquished the titles of president and CEO to Jeff Zucker in February), he leaves a network that, except for the iconic Peacock, is completely different. It now owns Universal Studios, the USA, Sci Fi and Bravo cable networks, along with CNBC and MSNBC, and even Telemundo.
Bob Wright, as it turned out, was the right person for the job. With his prophetic vision of the industry, he saw far, far forward and went there.
NBCU blossomed under Wright, who joined NBC just as the technological trot turned into a confusing, exciting multiplatform race. Cable tiers, Internet sites, streaming video, DVDs, new Nielsen measurements, and new ownership and financial-interest rules changed everything.
Then again, Wright was no stranger to TV when he landed at the network. He had been president of Cox Cable Communications and president of General Electric Financial Services, which helped finance purchases of broadcast properties.
In this special section, Wright is lauded by some of the executives and stars whose lives he touched. And in an interview with B&C's P.J. Bednarski, he offers new insights into the deals that made NBC what it is now, along with the issues and personalities that made running NBCU a fascinating and compelling ride.
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