It’s an aphorism in power centers like New York, Washington, Los Angeles and wherever Survivor is played: “It’s not personal, it’s business.” But with NBC chief Jeff Zucker and CBS head Leslie Moonves, it’s personal.
And last January, Donald Trump joined the fray. He called Moonves “the most highly overrated person in television” during NBC’s winter press tour. Then he endured his share of potshots from Moonves during the CBS sales presentation.
The fierceness of the Moonves-Trump rivalry was in full evidence at last week’s upfronts in New York. During NBC’s presentation, one taped skit had Trump assigning three NBC saleswomen the task of kidnapping a rival network exec.
The trio took down Moonves (played by an actor) with a tranquilizer dart, luring him into their clutches by screaming, “Les, there’s a reporter who wants to put your name in the paper!”
For his part, Moonves was happy to show a clip in which Dave Letterman staged a game called “Trump or Monkey,” in which people are shown photos that are blacked-out except for a small tuft of hair and asked to pick which is Trump and which is a monkey.
When the jabs weren’t personal, they were professional. Zucker gleefully told B&C that Viacom doesn’t have to worry about integrating its cable nets with CBS. “Most of their cable viewers are still in school, and most of the TV viewers are in nursing homes.”
Over at CBS HQ and upfront site Carnegie Hall, Moonves targeted Zucker. A Beatles cover band opening CBS’s upfront sang (to the tune of “A Day in the Life”): “I read the trades today-hoo boy!/Jeff Zucker said some of his programs “sucked.”/Forgive me, I just have to ask/If these shows made him yawn/What in Heaven’s name made him decide/to put the damn things on?/We’d love to turn them off…”
The funniest dig may have been the ad lampooning “NBC’s quality TV” led into clips of some of Fear Factor’s most stomach-turning moments. Afterward, Moonves intoned: “Product placement, anyone?”