UBS Media Conference: Zucker Eyes “Upside” In Light Of Comcast Deal - Broadcasting & Cable

UBS Media Conference: Zucker Eyes “Upside” In Light Of Comcast Deal

Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York Monday, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker focused on his company’s upside in light of a deal by cable giant Comcast to acquire a controlling stake.
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Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New
York Monday, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker focused on his company’s
upside in light of a deal by cable giant Comcast to acquire a
controlling stake.

But Zucker acknowledged problems at NBC
Entertainment, which have seen the once dominant broadcast network
slipping to fourth place.

“Certainly on the NBC Entertainment
side we probably have nothing but upside going forward,” Zucker said.
“We have not gotten the full credit at NBC Universal because the first
three letters of our name have not performed in recent years.”

Zucker
also addressed the broadcasting business in general as well as local
media, both of which have been hit especially hard in the recession.

“There
is an issue with the broadcasting model that exists whether you are in
first place or fourth place,” he said, echoing News Corp. COO Chase
Carey’s call to seek retrans fees. “The fact is the cable model is a
superior model to the broadcast model, we have to find another revenue
stream to go along with the ad supported model.”

Zucker added
that the NBC local stations group appears to be pulling out of its rut,
ready to post its first year over year growth in more than five years
this quarter.

“It has been tough in the last couple years in
the local television business side,” he said. “[The 2010 Elections],
Olympics, and a better ad environment hopefully means a much better
year going forward.”

He also said the company hopes to do for
NBC Sports, which will soon include cable networks Versus and The Golf
Channel, what it was able to do with its news and information
properties, while also downplaying expectations.

“ESPN is the
best in class, nobody should think that this is going to be another
ESPN, but if we can be 20% of what they have built at ESPN it will be a
great success,” he said.

On the digital side, Zucker says that
he and Comcast chief Brian Roberts are on the same page when it comes
to digital distribution. Saying that combating piracy “is one of the
main reasons behind Hulu,” Zucker added that media companies will need
to begin experimenting with other digital business models, including
pay and subscriptions.

He also referred to one of his most quoted comments from 2008’s NATPE conference:
“We cannot trade analog dollars to digital pennies,” a figure he
revised to “digital dimes” at the Digital Hollywood Conference in March.

“We
are making progress, but there isn’t a denomination between a dime and
a quarter, I would give you a quarter but I would need a little
change,” Zucker quipped.

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