NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker appeared on Charlie Rose Monday to address the controversy that has engulfed his network and the media vitriol aimed at him personally.
Zucker told a shocked Rose that the network’s gambit to move Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m. to make room for a half hour of Jay Leno has resulted in “death threats.”
Rose expressed shock but did not ask Zucker to elaborate.
Zucker also seemed to take full responsibility for the aborted Jay Leno experiment and the decision in 2004 to hand The Tonight Show over to O’Brien.
“Ultimately, it did not pan out. It was a mistake. But the worst thing you can do is let those mistakes linger.”
He also said that he would have preferred that O’Brien stay at NBC.
“I wished that Conan had found a way to stay and do 12:05. Ultimately, he couldn’t get his head around it.”
And Zucker brushed off the notion that the debacle would permanently damage Leno.
“We think that Jay will go back to 11:35 and be successful.”
NBC expects to announce O’Brien’s departure and Leno’s re-instatement on The Tonight Show Tuesday (Jan. 19.)