It would be unfair to give Jeff Zucker all the blame (or credit) for destroying broadcast television, or even NBC. Nor would it be fair if we didn’t acknowledge that Mr. Zucker had to do a lot of things right to get into a position to wreck NBC. And the network did get wrecked on his watch. Mr. Zucker started as a researcher at NBC in 1986, worked as a field producer at Today and became its executive producer in 1992. He brought in Today’s Window on the World in 1994 and deserves credit for establishing Today as a New York television institution.
Mr. Zucker—who held a number of top jobs at NBC between 2000 and 2010, including president of NBC Entertainment, president of NBC Entertainment’s News & Cable Group, president of NBC Television Group, CEO of NBC Universal and president-CEO of NBC Universal—oversaw a tough era for network television. But he gets the blame for devaluing the network’s greatest assets: The Tonight Show, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. It seems the book’s not closed on Mr. Zucker. He left NBC before Comcast came in to clean house, and he just started as president of CNN Worldwide. If he doesn’t have to oversee development of episodic programming, the do-over could give him a chance to restore the luster of a reputation once equated with the success of Today and now equated with the Peacock Network’s fall from grace.