In what has been predicted for months, Jeff Zucker announced his decision to leave NBC/Universal once the takeover by Comcast is complete. In an email to staff this morning, Zucker acknowledged that “it has not been an easy or a simple decision” to leave the media company, but “it is clear to me that this is the right decision for me and for the company.”
“Comcast will be a great new steward, just as GE has been, and they deserve the chance to implement their own vision,” Zucker wrote. “I am proud that they will inherit a company in very good shape, with almost every one of our divisions enjoying their best year ever.”
Zucker’s job has been in question ever since Comcast agreed to purchase the media company back in December (the deal is expected to close at the end of the year). Though Zucker’s time at NBC was highlighted by many victories – like turning The Today Show into a powerful cash cow, building the company’s cable nets like Bravo, USA, Oxygen and CNBC, and creating the now heavily-used Hulu – it was also overshadowed by colossal failures, like moving Jay Leno to prime time and paying Conan O’Brien some $40 million to leave NBC. He also was responsible for some major staffing blunders, like pushing out Kevin Reilly – who’s now running Fox and is responsible for Glee, the highest-rated show on TV right now among adults 18-49 – and hiring the inexperienced Ben Silverman to run the network. The former agent’s tenure didn’t even last two years at NBC.
Though the Peacock is still home to some of the most critically-lauded shows on TV, its been years since the network enjoyed the kind of success it once had during those heady Must See TV days – a weakness that was often attributed to Zucker’s reign as entertainment president and later as the company’s CEO. NBC is currently in fourth place among adults 18-49 (2.7 rating/7 share) and total viewers (7.5 million).
In his email to staff, Zucker appeared particularly conflicted about leaving “the only place I have ever worked.” “I have spent my entire adult life here, more than 24 years. The only professional thing I have ever known. I met my wife here, enjoyed the birth of our four children in that time, worked in almost every division of the company, and forged relationships both professional and personal that will last a lifetime.
“I don’t know yet what my future will bring … I haven’t even begun to think about the next chapter…I love NBC Universal and always will.”