NBC exec's future brighter as prexy exits

A lack of Lack won’t have an immediate impact on the day-to-day lives of most NBC employees — though it certainly doesn’t hurt the long-term outlook for one Peacock staffer: Jeff Zucker.

While Andy Lack officially ankled his post as prexy and chief operating officer last week, most observers believe his power and influence at the web evaporated as far back as last April. That’s when Lack and NBC chairman Bob Wright publicly conceded that they had not been getting along.

Both men said they were committed to making things work, but Lack apparently saw the writing on the wall and began searching for his next gig, insiders said. At the same time, Zucker — while technically reporting to Lack — has been operating with autonomy, working directly with Wright. NBC News prexy Neal Shapiro has also been running his division without any interference from Lack.

“Nothing’s changed,” one Peacock insider said about the state of NBC post-Lack.

Wasn’t a presence

Indeed, during the recent negotiations between NBC and Warner Bros. TV to bring back “Friends” for another season, Lack wasn’t a presence at all. Wright, by contrast, was heavily involved, according to industry insiders.

Except for a statement wishing Lack well, NBC had no official comment on the situation Friday. Unofficially, insiders said Zucker and Shapiro will now report directly to Wright, who has never really given up his active role in the management of the Peacock.

Zucker will get a little more power: NBC-owned Telemundo, which had been under Lack, will now fall under Zucker. Exec speaks Spanish, and the net could benefit from Zucker’s programming skills.

Over the next six to 18 months, most Peacock observers fully expect Zucker will continue to add more responsibilities to his portfolio. Exec has made no secret of the fact that he plans to return to New York, where his family remains. And given Zucker’s strong news background — he helped turn “Today” into the ayem powerhouse it is today — it seems only a matter of time before Zucker takes oversight of all of NBC.

Key: New ‘Friends’

The speed of those changes, however, may depend on how quickly Zucker can find a suitable sitcom replacement for “Friends.”

Like many of his network peers, Zucker so far has had no luck developing new hit comedies that industry insiders believe could even begin to fill the gap “Friends” will leave if and when it departs. (NBC execs consistently express their satisfaction with the Nielsen perf of Zucker-developed laffers like “Good Morning, Miami,” but that doesn’t mean those shows have the chops to lead off a night.)

As for Shapiro, his main mission will continue to be reviving third-place news cabler MSNBC. Lack hasn’t been that involved in management of MSNBC in recent months, however, so his departure won’t make much of a difference.

There was some speculation Friday around New York that MSNBC topper Eric Sorenson’s job security may be reduced without Lack. But other industry insiders believe Shapiro will stick by Sorenson for now, particularly with some signs this winter that the news cabler may be stabilizing a bit.

(Craig Offman in New York contributed to this report.)

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