Burke To Replace Zucker At NBC After Comcast Merger

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Comcast COO Steve Burke will lead NBC Universal once the merger is complete, presumably no later than early 2011. He has been with the cabler for 12 years.

Current NBCU head Jeff Zucker said he would leave once the General Electric-Comcast transaction closed. On Sunday, Burke was named the next CEO of NBCU.

While NBCU employees now know their future chief, they will have to wait for the official word on the fate of others. In its Burke announcement, Comcast said no further information about personnel at the new NBCU would be available until after the deal closes.

Burke was named Comcast COO in 2004; he joined the company in 1998 as president of Comcast Cable. He previously ran ABC Broadcasting, including 10 stations and the domestic syndication unit. He has helped Comcast incorporate new systems it has acquired and build up its Internet and phone delivery businesses.

In an e-mail to NBC employees on Friday, Zucker said his departure would be an emotional one -- considering he has spend his entire career at NBC, first working as a researcher on NBC's airing of the Seoul Olympics in 1988. He later took a position on "The Today Show" in 1992. He went on to have 10 different positions in the company.

Perhaps confusing to most industry observers was that Zucker signed a three-year extension to run NBC Universal seven months ago. Now, it appears, that deal was to make a smooth transition from a General Electric-owned company to one that is 51% controlled by Comcast, with GE retaining 49%.

Zucker's tenure has been full of drama, failure and success.

NBC has been in last place among the major networks in prime time among key viewing metrics for many years. Most recently, he took responsibility for the high-profile late-night debacle: NBC put Jay Leno in at 10 p.m. in an unusual Monday to Friday format, and installed Conan O'Brien in Leno's "Tonight Show" spot.

Although Zucker had limited success as a TV programmer, he kept NBC's big-rated show "Friends" on the air longer than expected, which helped sustain NBC as the No. 1-rated network.

Observers give Zucker credit for signing on the original "Apprentice," which became an instant hit, as well as green-lighting the initial run of Bravo's "Project Runway."

Early in his career, Zucker, as programmer, got credit for "super-sizing" TV shows -- which would run a bit longer than the standard half-hour or hour time formats. The strategy kept viewers from going to competing shows. Media executives also say he pushed NBC cable networks to invest in original programming. USA Network has been the leading cable network because of these efforts.

In the digital arena, the start-up of Hulu -- in partnership with News Corp. and Disney -- has been a major hit. Under his watch, NBC bought Oxygen and took a stake in The Weather Channel.

Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of General Electric, told The New York Times: "In my opinion, he has never gotten as much credit as he has deserved. He added: "I love Jeff: I'd hire him again."

This story has been updated. 

1 comment about "Burke To Replace Zucker At NBC After Comcast Merger".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 27, 2010 at 10:16 a.m.

    CNET News found a nice photo of Steve Burke. Zucker got his story told on Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday. Old news.

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