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Zucker Upped in NBC U Shift

12/16/2005 7:59 AM Eastern

Hoping to shake up its media fortunes, NBC Universal Television is giving Jeff Zucker more responsibility as CEO of the newly integrated group that will have oversight of the company’s content, television stations, operations, sales and distribution.

Also reshifted in the move are former Universal TV Networks Group president Randy Falco, who will now serve as president and chief operating officer of the group reporting to Zucker; and former General Electric Co. public-relations executive Beth Comstock, who was appointed to the newly created post of president of NBC U digital media and marketing development. Comstock and Zucker will report to NBC U chairman Bob Wright.

The reorganization positions Zucker to become the immediate successor to Wright once the chairman retires, although Wright said he has no plans to leave the organization anytime soon.

“I don’t have any plans to retire,” Wright said. “Organizations evolve, and this seemed like a good time to try to put our best and most solid face on [the organization].”

The expanded television group effectively partners Zucker -- formerly president of the group -- and Falco with NBC U TV-station group president Jay Ireland and NBC Universal Sports and Olympic Games chairman Dick Ebersolfor a more integrated approach to NBC U’s operations.

"These moves help to position NBC U for continued growth and accelerate our transition to a digital-media company,” Wright said in a prepared statement. “These changes also support the rebuilding of NBC network primetime, strengthen the strategic focus and operational effectiveness of our broadcast and cable networks and improve the coordination between our content-creation and distribution teams.”

While NBC U’s cable units have performed well -- especially USA Network, which has ascended to the top of the cable primetime-ratings race since its reacquisition of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. product -- Wright admitted that NBC has struggled with its primetime lineup.

“When you lose momentum, it’s hard to get it back,” he said. “We all have a lot more to do, and this organizational change is designed to accelerate the pace of that recovery.”

On the digital-media side, Comstock will step in to oversee digital media, strategic marketing, television research, television advertising and promotion and communications.

Most recently chief marketing officer of GE, she will be responsible for the company’s digital strategy, which has yielded several pay-per-episode deals with such nontraditional cable distributors as Apple Computer Inc., DirecTV Inc. and peer-to-peer Internet company Wurld Media Inc.

“As we’ve seen the changing media landscape and as we’ve put such an emphasis on digital media … with deals with DirecTV and Apple, it’s important that everybody that distributes our TV content works hand-in-hand because it’s all changing so quickly,” Zucker said. “This united organization allows us to go to market that much smarter, quicker and better.”

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