NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker appeared on Charlie Rose last night and talked about the decisions that led up to the current NBC late-night mess — which may be remembered as the biggest network debacles in television history. You can watch the complete interview here.
He essentially defends the 2004 decision to hand off the Tonight Show to Conan O’Brien. If they hadn’t made the deal, O’Brien would have likely gone to another network and NBC would have been left without an heir for the Tonight Show and without a Late Night host as well.
Zucker says that they took a chance and, had things all worked out as they’d hoped, they would have looked brilliant. The only thing is, they didn’t count on Jay Leno still being at the top of the ratings in 2009 or that O’Brien’s Tonight would be ranking third in the ratings.
Zucker still feels that O’Brien should have accepted the Tonight Show moving to 12:05am and believes the network is getting back onto the right track. He also mentioned that he’s received death threats over the whole thing, something he finds unbelievable considering that there are so many more important things going on in the world today, like the tragedy in Haiti.
As the days go on, the late night humor has been getting nastier and nastier so you can understand why NBC would like this whole thing to go away as quickly as possible. If you’d like a good chuckle, at Zucker’s expense, have a listen to his “voice-mails.”
What do you think? Does Zucker’s rationale make sense? Do you think he will be fired over this mess? Should he?