McGraw Hill Summit: Zucker Defends CNBC, Jim Cramer
NBC Universal CEO says attacks from 'The Daily Show' "incredibly unfair"
By Claire Atkinson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/18/2009 10:03:50 AM
NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker Wednesday defended CNBC against criticism that it failed to adequately predict the crisis on Wall Street. Speaking at the McGraw-Hill media summit, Zucker said that Comedy Central's Jon Stewart had been "incredibly unfair to CNBC and the business media."
"CNBC is a spectacular organization and in particular Jim Cramer," he said.The NBC U executive also said there had been no evidence of a ratings decline at the business network in light of Stewart's attack. Zucker said everybody was looking for a scapegoat and to point the finger in light of the economic crisis. "What is going on now is absurd," he added. Speaking at the McGraw Hill Media Summit Wednesday, Zucker also said that the media was not to blame for the Iraq war or the Wall St. meltdown.
He also jokingly pointed out that Business Week, part of McGraw-Hill and hosts of the media get together had picked AIG as one of its best stocks of 2007.
Zucker used the platform to further reinforce that the idea that NBC Universal is now primarily a cable programmer. "Sixty percent of our operating profit comes from our cable networks. We are first and foremost a cable company and our portfolio is second to none."
"USA is one of the five networks; ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and USA." "You have to be on USA if you want to reach general entertainment viewers," he added, clearly positioning that network to capture ad dollars that may trickle from the broadcast networks this year.
On the advertising upfront, Zucker said the NBC network is expecting to sell less inventory this season, though he said that decision would be a factor of market demand. "There is a lot of uncertainty out there and quite frankly some paralysis on the part of advertisers who aren't sure where budgets are going to be. I expect it to move slowly and that some of the broadcast networks may not move as much inventory this season." He said cable would continue to do well even in 2009.
Zucker repeatedly went back to the topic of how the company had to reinvent itself to avoid the fate of newspapers, local TV stations and Detroit, which he said had not adequately adapted to change. He went on to say that revenue from digital operations had improved somewhat. He famously said that big media companies had to be careful not to exchange digital pennies to for analog dollars. He revised that thought, to upgrade pennies to "digital dimes." "I don't know if we ever get to the one for one replacements but that's O.K. if you can fix your cost structure." When asked about the battle over content between CBS Corp's TV.com and online video provider Hulu, he said that the company was pursuing legal avenues and that he expected it to be resolved soon.
The executive also defended against criticism that NBC was any less of a network because it had chosen to program the Tonight Show at 10.00 pm. He said no-one criticized Fox or CW for only programming two hours of primetime a night. He also said that given fragmentation, people ought to look at the success of NBC programming in its totality, adding such things as views on Hulu views and iTunes.
Zucker did as much as he could to dispel speculation about the future of NBC Universal ownership. He repeated that NBC had benefitted greatly from being part of GE and that the discipline had "allowed us to see things before others see them." He said the relationship had also enabled the company to go after the Olympics and NFL and acquire channels such as Oxygen. "We're in an era where everybody questions everything and everybody throws ideas out there..."I hope we're there for a long time. Nothing lasts forever. I think NBC Universal has benefitted greatly from being part of GE. I hope that continues." Before adding, "I believe it will."
Speaking about the relationship with GE chief excutive Jeffrey Immelt, Zucker said he appraises him on things that he might read about in the press, but that his ultimate boss had no role in such things as programming decisions. "Look, he doesn't get involved in program decisions or editorial decisions at all and usually I talk to him about major strategic decision that changes the nature of the company."
CNBC pro-GOP, pro-business yea right NBC is left of Karl Marx, tune in sister network MSNBC for real anti-business, Obama is "god" and we should all worship him network!
Zucker just doing CYA two step, Cramer will be gone in a year!
Chip Harwood - 3/18/2009 4:32:24 PM EDT
Try this for size...In the book "Americans the Stupid"..."They" have been given a pacifer of beer, entertainment, a credit card, fed 24 hours of misinformation and a promise of a place in heaven while the leaders in Government, Business, The Media and Religion follow the philosophy of Omar the Tent Maker of Take the Cash and let the Credit Go....
George Crupper - 3/18/2009 2:38:43 PM EDT
CNBC has lost much of it's credibility over the past several months. Whether it was just plain ignorance or what most of us believe to be their close ties to the culprits that are mostly responsible for the current financial crisis, they failed to recognize the signs of the impending failure of many institutions on Wall St or elsewhere. How stupid is Zucker to now point the finger at Jon Stewart for recognizing CNBC's failure on a Comedy Show. The public knows better, but this just proves that Zucker is another Elitist sitting high up in his office or at his mansion failing to recognize what Wall St has done to the regular guy, & worse yet, sticking up for the cronyism that ultimately failed the viewers of CNBC.
Dave Zeininger - 3/18/2009 1:45:57 PM EDT
Mr. Zuker, not unlike Rush Limbaugh, is commenting and playing to his base. I have watch CNBC for well over a decade. It's always be pro-business, pro-Republican and slanted towards Wall Street. He recognizes his audience. When and if it starts to diminish, then he will pay attention. I stopping watching most of it's shows during the past Presidential campaign and since due to it's clear bias and ranting towards the Right. I use the Web for financial news and encourage folks to put CNBC in the place newspaers and magazines are going...out of business.
Neil Miller - 3/18/2009 1:37:23 PM EDT
Go ahead Zuckerman. Defend Cramer for doing no investigative research while representing himself as an authority. I'm glad you're not advising me.
John L - 3/18/2009 1:23:21 PM EDT
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