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NBC Universal exits spur an executive reshuffle

Studio reorganizes due to recent departures

NBC Universal has reorganized its executive suite, increasing the number of direct reports to Jeff Zucker, chief exec of broadcast and cable TV for the conglom, in the wake of three high-profile departures.

Both Zucker and chairman-CEO Bob Wright took on additional direct reports in the reorg, triggered by the departures of Randy Falco, president and chief operating officer of the television group; his top sales deputy, Keith Turner; and cable distribution chief David Zaslav.

In an unconventional move, the net tapped a media outsider, former GE exec Michael Pilot, to manage all of NBC U’s television ad sales.

Move puts Pilot, a 22-year veteran of GE Finance and former CEO of GE’s Equipment Finance Group, in control of a substantial percentage of national TV ad inventory on both broadcast and cable, adding a significant unknown to the upfronts in May, when the vast majority of TV ad time is sold in advance.

Sales toppers at the three other major broadcast networks, in addition to the CW, all have sales chiefs who have spent careers on the sales side of the advertising biz. They do business with the same media buyers year after year and generally know how the other side thinks.

“It’s a small club full of people who have known each other their whole careers in some cases,” said Joe Mandese, editor of online advertising trade Mediapost.com. “It’s a strong culture; the network business is still one of those rare cases where billion-dollar deals still get closed on a handshake.”

Acknowledging that Pilot lacks the relationships and context in the biz, the company promoted NBC sales veteran Ed Swindler to the newly created position of chief operating officer of the sales division.

Pilot will report directly to Zucker, who said the company tapped an outsider to bring “fresh eyes” to an industry struggling to adapt to new technologies and consumer habits.

“We have a tremendous team in place at NBC U that knows how the advertising game is played on the television side,” Zucker said. “We’re in a period of change, and I think coming in and looking at things, bringing in new ideas, bringing new strategies to the game with a team that is already in place and knows the industry will allow us to think differently.”

The reorganization vastly expands the portfolio of Zucker, who is the internal heir apparent to Wright, as well as that of Jay Ireland, who now reports directly to Zucker and takes over many of Falco’s operational responsibilities.

Ireland, president of the NBC U stations group, adds oversight of Telemundo, NBC network operations and domestic syndication, which had been under the purview of former cable distribution head David Zaslav, who left two weeks ago to become CEO of Discovery Networks.

Barry Wallach, prexy of domestic TV distribution, will report to Ireland. NBC U West Coast prexy Marc Graboff will take on some additional domestic TV distribution duties.

Zaslav’s responsibilities over NBC U cable properties have yet to be assigned.

Two other former Falco reports, NBC U chief information officer John Eck and business development chief Bruce Campbell, now report directly to Wright.

PR chief Cory Shields, who formerly reported to Beth Comstock, will also report directly to Wright.