NEW YORK — NBC Enterprises prexy John Agoglia is ankling the web after an 18-year career that rode the peaks and valleys of the peacock web’s fortunes.
Agoglia, 59, said a personal health scare had prompted his decision to leave NBC, take six months off and then return to a consulting role for NBC and other clients.
Although he’s fully recovered, “it’s just simply time,” he said Tuesday. “There were a couple of things on a personal level that have been eye-openers and made me re-evaluate.”
Other sources, however, say Agoglia may also have been a victim of clashes with his boss, NBC West Coast prexy Don Ohlmeyer, who has recently assumed more control of what had been Agoglia’s domain.
As president of NBC Enterprises, Agoglia oversees the in-house NBC Studios production arm, handles business affairs including talent negotiations for the network, and buys theatrical films for network runs.
NBC will announce his replacement shortly, but it’s expected that Ohlmeyer himself will handle top-level negotiations and other responsibilities will be divvied up among current execs. Jerry Petry, now senior VP-finance and business operations at NBC West Coast, is likely to get an expanded role heading business affairs.
Agoglia’s enduring legacy will be the often-criticized 1991 decision, with NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield, to replace late-night king Johnny Carson with Jay Leno instead of David Letterman, leading Letterman to bolt angrily for CBS two years later.
But in hindsight, with Leno now comfortably leading Letterman in the ratings, “that was the best decision Warren and I ever made. If that’s going to be my epitaph, I’ll live with it,” Agoglia said.
Only last month, however, Agoglia was blamed for creating ill will with the network’s top franchise, Castle Rock Entertainment’s “Seinfeld,” by playing hardball with subsidiary cast members seeking a bigger payday for their services.
After holding firm against Jason Alexander, Michael Richards and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Castle Rock itself stepped in and Ohlmeyer inked a last-minute nail-biting deal with the cast to guarantee the hit show’s return as the anchor of NBC’s Thursday night schedule.
Through a spokeswoman, NBC president Robert Wright called Agoglia “a tremendous asset” who “served us well,” and in a statement, Ohlmeyer credited “John’s aggressive style and unquestioned integrity” as “vital” to the network’s current leadership position.
Privately, other sources were more critical, blaming Agoglia for helping to foster a perception that NBC has become arrogant in dealings with suppliers and talent.
“He’s had a lot of detractors in the company,” said one.
Prodded by network higher-ups, Agoglia helped engineer a major push to expand the network’s in-house slate, to the point where this fall the web now owns 48% of its primetime hours, up from 32% just two years earlier, as well as its entire late-night and Saturday-morning slate.
“I’m extremely proud of that area of my involvement at NBC,” he said. “Anyone with a distribution system would do anything they can to ensure the quantity and quality of product. And now everybody else is doing it.”
Agoglia described the 1995 merger of the formerly autonomous NBC Prods. into the network — a move that had creative functions reporting to the network entertainment execs who programmed the in-house shows — as “the stroke that made this work.” But it also left him with less of a role there.
“The dynamics are changing with what is NBC Studios,” the exec said. “It becomes more negotiation-driven and talent-driven, and that’s something Don’s good at, too.”
Agoglia also was responsible for buying “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List” and other high-rated theatricals, but the network this fall will drop one of two movie nights, and NBC’s broadcast and cable rivals have lately become more aggressive in competing for TV rights to such blockbusters. Fox Broadcasting, for example, will pay as much as $80 million for long-term rights to “Jurassic” sequel “The Lost World.”
After working for 14 years at CBS, most recently as VP-business affairs, Agoglia joined NBC in 1979 as VP-program and talent negotiations, was named senior VP-business affairs a year later, then became exec VP at NBC Prods. in 1984 and exec VP-business affairs in 1987. He later added responsibility for foreign syndication sales of NBC’s in-house product.