Speaking of NBC Universal, (and don’t we all?) the media gave a lot of attention to boss Jeff Zucker’s remarks about Jon Stewart vs Jim Cramer. But many outlets missed the most amazing part of Zucker’s presentation to the McGraw Hill Media Summit last week. According to Media Daily News, Zucker officially surrendered in the fight for his network to be No. 1 in primetime. “What does No. 1 in prime time mean anymore?” he asked, adding that the traditional measuring stick has lost relevance and that, because of DVRs, online video and other factors, a more appropriate metric is aggregate viewing across on-air, online, VOD, iTunes, etc — a gauge where the NBC low-rated critical hit The Office performs well. “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to say, ‘NBC is No. 1 in prime time,'” Zucker said.
Zucker also acknowledged that any aspirations to be No. 1 were effectively thrown out when NBC made the decision to strip Jay Leno weeknights at 10 PM since ratings there won’t approach even those of low-rated scripted shows currently airing. Instead, Zucker is now comparng his network not to CBS or ABC, but to Fox which has 7 fewer hours of programming to fill. “I don’t think anyone thinks Fox is any less of a network because they program two hours in prime time.” Zucker acknowledged that NBC may not have taken the gamble if prime-time ratings were healthy. “Sometimes, you see the world more clearly when you’re flat on your back,” he said. “We can bury our heads in the sand, and then I’ll know we’ll be defeated.”
Zucker said NBC Universal “first and foremost” now is a cable-network business which, since it derives revenues from more stable affiliate fees as well as advertising, is on target for record ratings and financial performance in 2009.