The Cuddly Jeff Zucker; Less Cuddly When it Comes to Phelps?

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August 15th, 2008

NBC\'s Jeff Zucker on CNBCI was corresponding with someone about the CNBC interview with NBC chief Jeff Zucker who remarked "he is awful cuddly," and I cracked up. But there's truth in there. I confess, it's hard to watch the video (click link above) and not like the guy a little bit. He seemed pretty genuine, and even admitted that the entertainment division, especially during primetime on the NBC broadcast network must do a better job than it has been doing.

But not everyone thinks Zuck is so cuddly. Are Zucker and crew at NBC being overly smug about the dominance of broadcast television? I don't know. I've hardly been a defender of the fourth place network in primetime, and I won't likely start being one now. We already knew that even though changes in choice and changes with technology have largely pummeled the broadcast networks over the years (not to mention the real pummeling which has occurred not due to changes in technology, but rather the amount of choice via cable television) that broadcast networks were still king in terms of reach and engagement. But I didn't expect the dominance to appear as clearly as it has so far with the Olympics, and I imagine what may seem like smugness to some degree is just giddy surprise. I doubt even NBC figured it would do this well. My guess is that it expected a haircut versus the Athens games, not an increase.

Should NBC be streaming all events live via the Internet and live via broadcast television? I don't know that I'd go that far. It's not my money invested for one thing (and I am not a GE shareholder) and it's hard to argue with the results so far. Whether it's, "hey, we knew what we were doing, and it worked!" or, "holy %$#@, not even we expected it would work this well," the results themselves are tough to argue with and hardly smug. So I can't make the call on whether it would have been better off with live streaming or broadcasting live to the west coast.

But, Zucker, Dick Ebersol, Gary Zenkel and crew sure would seem a whole lot more cuddly if (assuming Phelps wins tonight, too) it broadcasted the potential Phelps record-setting eighth medal race live across the country. The race is on a mere minutes before primetime begins on the west coast anyway and would be historic from any angle (win or lose, really). I don't know about live streaming of all events or suspending the tape delays on the west coast, but I do know for sure that if there is a historic potential record-breaking race for Phelps, and I don't get to see it live, NBC won't seem cuddly at all.

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