NBC Universal Thursday promoted Jeff Zucker to the new post of chief executive of the company's television group, giving him expanded responsibilities even as the network's prime time viewership has fallen behind those of its two biggest network rivals.
Zucker, who was previously president of NBC Universal television networks, will now head an expanded television group that combines programming, the stations group, operations, and sales into one unit. He will report to NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)
Zucker will retain responsibility for the entertainment division, studio, news, and cable channels.
Randy Falco, previously president of the networks group, will be president of the new expanded television group.
Zucker rose to prominence with his early success as executive producer on NBC's "Today" show, in the early 1990s. On his watch, NBC dominated prime time television, anchored by such shows as "Friends," "Frazier," "Law And Order," "Seinfeld," and "ER."
But as each of those shows ran its course, most recently as "Friends" and "Frazier" ended their runs, NBC has been in the new position of struggling to find its prime time footing, despite recent hits such as "Fear Factor" and "The Apprentice" with Donald Trump. Zucker has been bearing the brunt of that criticism in recent months.
In recent ratings, NBC, once in first place, trailed both CBS and ABC in total viewers.
NBC is 80 percent owned by blue-chip conglomerate General Electric Co. and 20 percent by France's Vivendi. CBS is now owned by Viacom Inc., which is breaking it off as part of a separate company to be called CBS Corp. ABC is owned by Walt Disney Co.