The Variety Exit Interview: NBC’s John Miller on ‘Must See TV,’ ‘It’s New To You’ and other career highlights (and low points)

Brandon Tartikoff, Bob Wright and John Miller.

After nearly 30 years at NBC, marketing topper John Miller is set to announce his retirement this week at the PromaxBDA convention.

From “Just Watch Us Now” and “Let’s All Be There,” to “Must-See TV” and now, “More Colorful,” Miller has watched the network marketing business undergo quite a dramatic change. And Miller, of course, and his team have instigated much of that change.

While “Must-See TV’ has gone down in the books as one of the most well-known TV slogans of all time, initiatives like “NBC 2000” — which slimmed down closing credits and created a seamless transition between shows — became standard industry practice.

As he prepared to make his departure official, Miller took time out to reminisce about the highlights of his three decades at the Peacock — and why he felt the time was right to step aside:

VARIETY ON THE AIR: Why the retirement? Why now?

JOHN MILLER: I do turn 60 in October, and at a certain point it is a young man’s game. Technologically, things change very quickly these days. And we’ve embraced social media and mobile platforms and different ways to reach the consumer. But I do it as a student of marketing and not as a consumer. Broadcasting is a very different beast than it was when I first joined it. Now, the good news is, the cavalry is coming to help broadcast, in terms of retransmission deals and network ownership of properties via in-house studio, so that they can survive.

But a couple of years ago, when I first made this decision, it was a time when I said, ‘I’ve been doing this a long time,’ and quite candidly, it wasn’t the best of times at NBC. Even though I had corporate responsibilities for the NBC Universal marketing council, maybe at a certain point it was time to turn things over to the next generation. ‘You may want to try to use me for next couple of years to put things in place, and use my brain and memory and everything else,’ I told them. I’ve accumulated a bunch of knowledge over time, and it’s unfair for one person to come in cold.

AFTER THE JUMP: Miller discusses the high points — and a few low ones — during his nearly three decades at the Peacock.

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  1. When love has already become “chicken ribs”, when it is tasteless to eat but waste to throw away, what will we be supposed to choose?

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