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NBC Universal Takes Shape

5/12/2004 7:29 AM Eastern

New York -- NBC’s purchase of Vivendi Universal Entertainment spawned a new organizational chart Wednesday that gives dual-network oversight to a pair of female cable-network chiefs.

Sci Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer adds responsibility for USA Network in the new setup at NBC Universal, and Trio president Lauren Zalaznick adds day-to-day operations of Bravo, officials said at a press conference here.

Ahead of the deal’s closing, former USA Network chief Doug Herzog left, taking a job heading up Viacom Inc.’s Comedy Central.

Hammer and Zalaznick report to Jeff Gaspin, now NBC Universal cable-entertainment and cross-platform-strategy president, who reports to NBC Universal TV Group president Jeff Zucker. Gaspin had managed Bravo since NBC bought it from Cablevision Systems Corp. in December 2002.

MSNBC and CNBC report directly to Zucker.

Other assignments: Jeff Lucas will oversee the combined NBC Universal Cable Sales force, reporting to NBC Universal Sales & Marketing president Keith Turner.

Doug Holloway, USA’s longtime distribution head, now heads up NBC Universal Cable Investments, reporting to NBC Universal Cable president David Zaslav.

An NBC Cable spokeswoman said Holloway will monitor NBC’s financial interests in such cable networks as A&E Network, The History Channel and Sundance Channel, as well as “anything new to come.”

The combined entity also includes Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Mun 2.

As for job cuts, NBC Universal chairman and CEO Bob Wright said the combined entity employs 15,000 and whatever cuts come won’t exceed 3% of the work force, or about 500 people, over a couple of years. It’s speculated that redundant jobs are likely to come in such areas as network affiliate sales and marketing.

The new organization answers some questions but doesn’t answer others.

Gaspin said pop-culture network Trio’s future is still up in the air. There was much speculation that Trio would be folded into Bravo. Gaspin said it will remain a linear channel for now, but it needs to show distribution improvement in the next six months.

“Now that we’re together, we’ll take a long hard look at it,” he added. “The story about Trio is distribution. It’s in 20 million homes now, and to be a viable channel, it needs to get to 40 million. We have to look at what the prospects of that distribution increase [are] and make a decision based on that.”

Also unclear: how much NBC programming will be repurposed on USA and Sci Fi.

Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics, which now includes USA Network sports properties, said during the press conference that it was “absolutely” the intention to make “USA the cable home of the Olympics.”

Ebersol said USA -- which is slated to begin Olympic Games trials coverage this month -- would present “high-level” events from Athens this August, “the majority of it live in the morning and afternoon New York time.” A detailed scheduled will be announced within a couple of weeks.

After the press conference, Zaslav said the cable networks are interested in expanding the use of original and library content for video-on-demand and pay-per-view applications.

Wright said the cable networks will be included in NBC’s upfront presentation next week, which would result in a higher sell-through on the cable side.

NBC Universal TV Networks Group president Randy Falco said NBC brings 500-600 advertisers to the table, versus 300-400 for USA and Sci Fi.

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