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Madison Avenue Anticipates Better Days for NBC

The people who decide how much to spend advertising on NBC were not surprised by Jeff Zucker's departure and were mainly looking forward to better days for the network under Comcast.

"Zucker didn't have a lot of success with NBC's prime time even before Comcast came along," said Gary Carr, senior VP, Executive Director, national broadcast, at media buyer TargetCast tcm.

A decade ago, NBC was the dominant network, charging the highest prices for ads on such shows as Seinfeld, Friends and ER. In the last few upfront ad markets, however, NBC has gotten either the smallest increases among the broadcasters, or been forced to accept the biggest cuts.

But Carr adds that NBC's only a show or two away from being competitive in prime and it has remained a leader in the morning, late night and sports.

The takeover by Comcast is a good thing, Carr says. "It depends on deep down what Comcast wants to do with NBC," he said. "The world of television is changing and if they're able to distribute the shows in other venues and other platforms, then I'm all for it. I don't think Comcast is going to turn [NBC] into a cable network and fire everyone."

While Zucker's portfolio was much broader than NBC's primetime performance, Brad Adgate, Senior VP-director of Research Horizon Media, said audience delivery had to be a factor in his departure.

"It's just the nature of the business. He had been there a pretty long time, but it can be a very volatile position because you get results every day and billions of ad dollars ride on these decisions," Adgate said.

Even before Comcast takes the reins, it seemed like NBC was making bigger investment in primetime programming than had been the norm recently under General Electric, Adgate said. "It looks like there were a lot of big names there, Jerry Bruckheimer, J.J. Abrams, David E. Kelley, Dick Wolf was back. It looks like they were throwing out some pretty big guns."