Memo to Jeff Zucker: No, They’re Not Mocking Your ‘Risk-Taking’

NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker talked to the New York Times’ Tim Arango for an exhaustive piece about NBC’s woes, but I’m still not sure he gets what the problem is in regard to the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien brouhaha.

“I think part of why there’s been such a visceral reaction to this is
we’ve talked about change and taking risks, and that’s something I’ve
always been associated with,” Mr. Zucker said in the article. “And not being afraid to
take chances.”

Granted, much of the coverage has bordered on the hysterical — and the amount of time that the hosts themselves have spent talking about it has spilled over into the absurd. That’s partly NBC’s fault for establishing an arbitrary deadline, when they should have pleaded with affiliates for patience and promised to change course in a more carefully orchestrated fashion. Instead, the whole situation has played out in public — and been rushed to conclude before the Winter Olympics.

But that’s not the reason why those in the business have reacted so viscerally.

Frankly, as my latest weekly Variety piece explains in some detail, the source of hostility in TV circles is because NBC has acted like this is all some grand design at work, when it’s really lurching from one decision to the next. Network officials have disguised necessity and desperation as a strategy. It sounds great to be a “risk-taker,” but only if those risks have a reasonable probability of paying off. By contrast, many of the ones NBC has banked on seemed doomed from the get-go — and in the case of Leno’s move to primetime, were clearly implemented without any kind of a fallback plan.

Oh, and speaking of NBC latenight franchises that are in trouble….

Wow, did “Saturday Night Live” suck this week.

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