MediaFile

Talking heads block Al-Jazeera TV in U.S.-Zucker

Millions of Americans have turned to Al-Jazeera for coverage of the crisis in Egypt, but for the vast majority, that has meant turning to the Internet rather than their televisions.

Why? Former NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker has a theory — U.S. cable operators are afraid of the talk show backlash that would result if they carried the channel, viewed by some as having an anti-American bias. Jeff Zucker

Jeff Zucker

“Some people would attack some of the distributors like Comcast and others who would carry it for being un-American for carrying Al-Jazeera,” said Zucker, who stepped down as CEO of NBC at the end of January when General Electric Co closed on its sale of a majority stake in the media operation to Comcast Corp. “That’s part of what the problem is, which is incredibly unfortunate.”

Al-Jazeera says some 3.5 million U.S. viewers have turned to its live Web feed since Egyptians took to the streets to call for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled that country for three decades.

During an hour-long talk on the state of the media at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Zucker discussed the rivalry between NBC’s cable news channel MSNBC, which has carved out a left-leaning niche, and its main rival News Corp’s Fox News Channel, on the right.

Relief in Philadelpia? NBCU profit up 13 percent

NBC Universal’s quarterly results — still wrapped into the General Electric numbers — should have some of the folks down in Philadelphia smiling this weekend. The numbers didn’t set the world on fire, but both profit and revenue showed improvement thanks to (what else) the cable division.

Overall, NBCU’s quarterly profit rose 13 percent to $607 million. Revenue climbed 5 percent to $3.75 billion.

Keith Sherin, GE’s finance chief, credited Jeff Zucker with delivering what he called “a strong performance” and said the regulatory review of the sale to Comcast “is progressing as expected.”

Sun Valley: Jane Goodall and the primary primates

John MaloneIt’s day three of the Sun Valley media conference and the event has started to feel like a Jane Goodall documentary, in which we’re Jane and the moguls are the apes who have become comfortable letting us observe and record their movements. Several media executives groggily making their way to the morning’s first session (scheduled to kick off at 7:30), stopped to chat with the throng of press waiting to greet them.

Liberty Media Chairman John Malone voiced concerns about the economy for nearly 10 minutes while NBC’s Jeff Zucker, who once warned of the risks to media companies of trading analog dollars for digital pennies and later upped the exchange rate to dimes, posited the idea that the media industry was now within reach of collecting digital quarters. It’s change we can believe in.

Later on Thursday, Google’s chief executive Eric Schmidt (who for reasons unknown has been toting a camera with a beefy zoom lens throughout the event, even after-hours at the bar on Wednesday evening) will hold his traditional Sun Valley press roundtable, possibly with co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who are here.

Zucker praises Comcast; but will it be a good fit?

zuckerWhen it comes to the Comcast-NBC Universal deal, one of the big stories over the coming year will center on corporate culture. Maybe too much is made of this, maybe different cultures had nothing to do with the disaster that was Time Warner-AOL, for instance. But I doubt it.

Which brings us back to Comcast-NBC Universal. The New York Post got a jump on the culture clash story today, and UBS banker Aryeh Bourkoff followed up on it during an interview with NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker at the UBS Media and Communications Conference.

Asked about his relationship with Comcast’s Brian Roberts and Steve Burke, Zucker said up the following. (Perhaps he’s already figuring out the Comcast culture of bland, family friendly diplomacy).

NBC, News Corp practice Olympic hedging

Big media executives are developing a new Olympic sport — hedging. Two of the best contenders are NBC-Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch.

Attendees at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York City asked both executives on Tuesday if they were interested in bidding for rights to broadcast the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Both answered the question in ways that sound different until you realize that they actually sound… the same.

Murdoch said “We haven’t thought about it” and concluded with “I wouldn’t think so.” Zucker said, “We’ll have to see what happens. We’re not going to make any decision that doesn’t make business sense. …. The Olympics are an important part of the company and something we’d would like to be involved with if it makes business sense.”