Loose Change: NBCU's Zucker Says Digital Now More Than 10 Cents On The Analog Dollar

Digital media business models are improving for big, traditional media companies as they learn to adapt, but they are still nowhere near the golden days of analog media, and may never be again, Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal said Monday during an annual briefing to Wall Street analysts and journalists. "I think we're making progress," Zucker said during Monday's session of UBS' Media Week conference in New York, amending what was perhaps his most famous quote of the past couple of years: that new digital media models are converting "analog dollars into digital dimes" for companies like NBC U.

"There's not a domination between a dime and a quarter. I'll give you a quarter but I'll need a little change," he quipped, saying that the current digital exchange rate is somewhere between a "dime and a quarter.

"I think we're doing better every six months to a year," he said. "I think we're better than a dime, but we're not near a quarter."

Zucker said it's unlikely that big, legacy media companies such as NBC U would ever approach the kind of revenues they derived from analog media models, but he said they are improving their digital media models, and continuing to "experiment with windows" of distribution to find ones that are more profitable.

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He also said the recently announced merger of NBC U into a joint venture owned by cable TV and broadband giant Comcast and GE, would help the media company be even better positioned for an increasingly digital media marketplace.

While the deal still faces regulatory approval that could take months, Zucker said the merger with Comcast could help NBC U's programming and networks in some key areas, such as how its content is distributed across digital video recorders and set-top devices.

"That's another example of where we can sit on the same side of the table and have the same mutual goals," he said.

One area where the mutual goals aren't so clear is online video in general, and NBC U's joint venture with News Corp. in Hulu. Comcast is believed to be opposed to such online video distribution models, because it fears many consumers might drop their cable TV subscriptions if they can access the same or comparable content via the Web.

Zucker dodges that question, noting that Hulu and its rivals are still new to the marketplace, and that better revenues models would be needed to justify their long-term role in the television industry.

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