Burke sets stage for new management team

Incoming NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke has now set the stage for his new management team.

And to no one’s surprise, Burke plans to keep NBC U’s cable infrastructure mostly intact, but he’s planning a major makeover on the network side.

The second shoe in Burke’s Peacock overhaul dropped Monday, when NBC Universal TV topper Jeff Gaspin confirmed that he would be exiting the network. The rest of Burke’s new structure will be announced in the coming days — possibly Wednesday.

Gaspin and his soon-to-be-former boss, NBC U CEO Jeff Zucker, will depart once the NBC U-Comcast merger is completed, although Gaspin may stick around a bit longer to aid in the transition.

The move comes as Burke plans a streamlined executive structure — with various broadcast and cable chieftains reporting directly to him.

Under the previous setup, introduced just last year, all of NBC U’s TV entertainment assets — including cable, broadcast, and distribution — reported to Gaspin, who in turn answered to Zucker. But Gaspin spent most of this past year and a half focusing his energies on NBC, which needed the most help.

The job of engineering a Peacock turnaround will now fall on Burke and his new NBC reports: Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt and NBC’s new business/operations topper, a job that most now believe will be filled by Ted Harbert. In comparison, cable toppers Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick will keep their respective empires — as well as additional oversight of some Comcast properties.

It’s a return to the broadcast grind for Greenblatt and Harbert, both of whom got their start in the network business and later turned their attention to producing until landing top cable gigs (Greenblatt at Showtime, Harbert at E! and Comcast Entertainment).

With Greenblatt and Harbert in place, it became apparent that there wasn’t a spot for Gaspin in the new NBC U hierarchy.

Gaspin had been widely expected to leave after the merger, but nothing became official until Monday, when Gaspin and Burke hammered out his fate.

“During the course of the Comcast/GE merger, I’ve had many good conversations with Steve Burke about my role at the new NBC Universal,” Gaspin wrote in a memo to staffers Monday. “As is his prerogative, Steve has determined that he wants to move in a different direction and given the scope of my current responsibilities, we could not agree on an appropriate role for me in the new company. Therefore I will be departing NBC Universal a short time after the merger.”

The well-respected Gaspin had been talked up for a potential business/operations job similar to the one once held by Randy Falco and Neil Braun, but the reality of moving the exec into a scaled-down position made such a move unlikely.

Gaspin departs after spending a combined 19 years at NBC Universal. His most recent position was his most challenging: putting NBC back on track after a ratings collapse hastened by last year’s “Jay Leno Show” debacle.

“While we have had our challenges on the entertainment broadcast side, I am proud of the progress we have made and the tremendous success of our outstanding cable assets, our strong distribution divisions and our market-leading digital innovation,” he wrote.

Gaspin added that he exits NBC U “with an obvious sense of sadness and loss, but I’ll be forever grateful for my relationships with my colleagues and those who gave me a chance to participate in the success of this great company. It’s been an exhilarating ride — and I thank you for sharing it with me.”

Gaspin has served as chairman of NBC Universal TV Entertainment since July 2009, overseeing all business, creative, production, distribution and marketing aspects of NBC U’s television operations.

Before that, he was prexy-COO of NBC Universal Television Group. Over the past decade, he has also served as prexy of NBC Universal Cable and Digital Content; prez of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cross-Network Strategy and Bravo topper.

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