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Zucker Discusses NBC-Universal Combo

A combined NBC and Universal Television would make TV shows for all six
broadcast networks, as well as its own cable networks, with repurposing on all
of the NBC-owned cable properties to be expected, NBC Entertainment president
Jeff Zucker said at the Hollywood Radio & Television Society’s annual
luncheon Wednesday with the broadcast networks’ six entertainment

The agreement between the two companies should become final by the end of
this month, with the deal closing sometime in next year’s first quarter, he

"We’ll see what has worked best for everyone," Zucker said, referring to the
various models of vertical integration that exist among the major studios and
broadcast networks.

Meanwhile, he expects NBC to continue doing a good amount of business with
Warner Bros. Television, which produces many of NBC’s top shows, including
Friends and ER.

Viewers can expect more cable-to-broadcast-network repurposing under the new
NBC-Universal regime. "I don’t think we would produce any show going forward
that we couldn’t imagine airing on the cable channels, as well," Zucker said,
referring to likely new acquisitions USA Network, Sci Fi Channel and Trio as
well as NBC-owned Bravo.

The annual preseason panel with the broadcast networks’ six entertainment
presidents was much more of a production this year, with MTV: Music Television
producing the lunchtime "show" at Beverly Hills’ Beverly Regency Wilshire and
questions being asked via video clips by talent and producers such as
Everybody Loves Raymond’s Ray Romano, ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel,
Saturday Night Live writer Tina Fey, MTV’s Tom Green and Mark Burnett,
executive producer of shows such as Survivor, The Restaurant and
The Apprentice.

Pat O’Brien, host of NBC Enterprises’ Access Hollywood, moderated the

O’Brien failed to ask the expected question: "Which of the other networks’
new shows do you wish you had?" But a quick survey of the network presidents
found that zany Fox comedy Arrested Development was most wanted this
year, with both CBS Television chairman Leslie Moonves and NBC’s new president
of programming, Kevin Reilly, choosing it.

Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman named CBS’ Cold Case, from
red-hot executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer. (Fox has another Bruckheimer show,
Skin, on its schedule.)

Zucker wanted ABC’s Hope & Faith, saying, "I’m a big fan of Kelly
Ripa," while ABC Entertainment president Susan Lyne liked CBS’ Two and a Half

The WB Television Network’s Jordan Levin preferred NBC’s Miss Match,
perhaps because the show’s star, Alicia Silverstone, is so WB-friendly. And UPN
entertainment president Dawn Ostroff wanted Fox’s preseason hit, The

All of the presidents pointed to Friday night as a key battleground this

"All the networks are going aggressively after Friday night," Lyne said.
"With 16 ratings points of viewers watching cable on Friday night, there is no
reason why they can’t be watching us."

In that vein, Lyne and ABC are relaunching their "TGIF" schedule, while
Zucker said NBC is focusing its attention on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday --
thus NBC’s move of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit from Friday to
Tuesday. "It’s an economic decision for us," Zucker said, "because those nights
are where most of the ad dollars are."

Berman said Fox tried to stick with established shows on Friday night, and
"not start from scratch. We are nervous about Friday night because there’s steep
competition there."

The WB has had some success rebuilding its Friday night with Reba and,
now, Grounded for Life. Levin said the network decided to give up on
Saturday night altogether in favor of keeping Sundays from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. for its
"Easy View" programming block, which has worked well for The WB.

In the end, perhaps the day’s most honest questions came from Kimmel via
videotape, who posed this question to Zucker: "What’s it like to have viewers?
Is it fun?"