How nice to know that, while a major Hollywood strike looms, Jeff Zucker has nothing better to do today than get his knob shined by CEO Pornster Ken Auletta over breakfast at an event sponsored by the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Zucker made the most definitive statement yet that GE boss Jeffrey Immelt isn’t going to sell NBC Universal after the Olympics, as many media outlets are forecasting. As for the writers’ strike looming, he said “unfortunately” it’s looking “more and more likely.” NBCU’s film slate in 2008 would not be affected, he said, nor would there be any practical effect on NBC’s on-air lineup through the end of the year, but beyond that the network would be forced to rely on unscripted programming and news magazines.
“It’ll be a real watershed event as to whether people come back to scripted television” in healthy numbers after a strike at the beginning of a season already struggling with widespread erosion, Zucker said. As I’ve reported, he is one of the hawks among moguls.
Meanwhile, what a stupid move for Hulu.com, the video site owned jointly by NBC Universal and News Corp, to begin testing today, by invitation only. Moronic, just three days before a crippling walkout, for these moguls to start up a site focused solely on TV and film content. But that’s why they get paid the big bucks. Also, today’s International Herald Tribune runs a puff piece about how NBCU, late to the overseas markets party, is making up for lost time. It quotes Zucker calling the international business a “huge priority” and hoping to nearly double the company’s foreign revenue by 2010, lifting it to $5 billion, or 30 percent of NBCU’s total, from $2.8 billion, or 18 percent, last year. NBCU is scouting around for more channels to buy, and the biggest opportunities may lie in places like Eastern Europe and Asia. At a time when American TV fare generally is experiencing a resurgence overseas, NBCU has had considerable success selling US hits like Heroes in international markets. (But Heroes is having problems here at home…) It has also licensed Law & Order for local language versions in Russia and France. Now, rather than relying only on U.S. exports, the company plans to step up local production of TV programs and films, focusing on markets like India, Russia, Germany, Japan and Britain. We already know that Angela Bromstad moved to London to oversee the works.