Sked head departs

20-year Peacock veteran Beckman ankles

NBC scheduling czar Preston Beckman is ankling the Peacock after a 20-year run at the web.

Beckman, whose official title was exec veepee of program planning and scheduling, still has three months remaining on his current deal. He’s expected to exit as early as today; NBC will continue paying his salary through June.

A decision on a replacement for Beckman is not expected to be made until late spring or early summer. There’s no word yet on where he will land next.

Departure is not a complete surprise: Beckman had been telling associates for some time that he planned to leave NBC at the end of the three-year pact he inked back in the summer of 1997.

Beckman has actually survived far longer than most industry insiders had thought he would following the October 1998 arrival of Scott Sassa as NBC West Coast topper. Sassa was expected to clean house but instead asked Beckman to stay on.

Speculation about Beckman’s future started heating up again last summer when Garth Ancier was tapped prexy of NBC Entertainment. While Beckman was an integral part of the Don Ohlmeyer/Warren Littlefield management team, he did not play as vital a role under Ancier.

Beckman told Sassa several weeks ago that he would not stay at NBC beyond this summer. Timing of the departure was pushed up to avoid any conflicts of interest as the Peacock prepares to assemble its fall sked.

In addition, Beckman did not attend a two-day NBC management retreat held last week at the Ritz Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena.

During the Ohlmeyer/Littlefield era, Beckman was widely known for his aggressive, sometimes controversial scheduling techniques. He was not afraid to pit a major NBC spec or series hit against another web’s blockbuster, thus diminishing the popularity of both programs.

Beckman took control of NBC’s skedding in July 1991 when he was named veep of program planning and skedding. He was upped to senior VP in March 1994 and exec veep in 1997.

After joining NBC in 1980 as a management associate in network research, Beckman served in various positions in the Peacock’s East Coast research department. He was named veep of East Coast aud research in 1989.

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