NBC News child’s play

NBC News has shuffled the duties of its top executives, turning over the reins of “NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw” to wunderkind producer Jeffrey Zucker. The 27-year-old exec will add the nighttime duties to his current job as executive producer of “Today.”

The move is designed to energize NBC’s cellar-dwelling “Nightly News” and prepare for the launch of new prime time entries the network is developing.

Steve Friedman, current “Nightly” executive producer, has been given the same title on a new prime time program being developed by the news division and scheduled to debut later this year.

Speculation surrounding Friedman’s role at the network has circulated for weeks, including reports he would work on the new program, as well as rumors he would assume a larger role in the network’s news development process. However, that position has gone to someone else.

Jeffrey Gaspin, VP of development at NBC News since 1991, will now become VP of prime time programming and development for NBC. Under the new structure, he will now pick up oversight of programs such as “Dateline NBC,””I Witness Video” and any new prime time programs and planned news specials.

“Brokaw Reports” executive producer Paul Greenberg joins Friedman as a co-executive producer on the new program.

Since joining “Today,” Zucker has smoothed over some of the show’s problems and put it back in contention to be the top-rated breakfast show. Indeed, “Good Morning America” won the yearly ratings crown by just a tenth of a rating point.

His star is certainly glistening at the network.

Zucker said he would be working hard between the third-place “Nightly” and second-place “Today” but felt confident he could handle both assignments successfully. He did say he would physically be at both shows.

“I can just hope to try to establish a tone or rhythm at ‘Nightly’ like we have at ‘Today,’ ” Zucker said. “‘Today’ is going very well.”

For “Nightly,” Zucker said not to expect major changes, but advised there will be some tinkering. “What I will do is energize the program,” he said, adding that the show will be aggressive and do hard news. “That’s what I’ve done here (at ‘Today’) and that’s what I’ll do there.”

Zucker was named executive producer of “Today” one year ago. At the time he was 26 and the youngest executive producer in the show’s history. He joined NBC in 1986 as an Olympics researcher.

Gaspin joined the network in NBC’s station division in 1984 as a administrator of sales planning and pricing and then moved to manager of financial evaluation and special projects. He was named VP of program development in 1991.

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