NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker regrets the public soap opera that the Conan O'Brien-Jay Leno late-night showdown turned into and hopes that Comcast will be lenient on NBC comedy 30 Rock if and when it acquires NBC Universal.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Monday, Zucker also said that while "nobody is entitled to any job," he is looking forward to being CEO of NBC Universal "for quite some time," even though there have been recurring rumblings that he may get replaced after the deal closes.
Asked about the Conan-Jay drama, he said: "I regret that it became a soap opera, and that it played out as publicly as it did."
Asked by the Journal about cultural differences between NBC Uni and Comcast, Zucker said: "You know, I don't know yet how we differ, but I just hope that Comcast is as lenient with 30 Rock making fun of them as we have been with them making fun of us."
Discussing the broadcast business, Zucker said his company has been pouring more money into it again thanks to retransmission fees that cable and satellite TV operators have started paying broadcasters. "That will help change the economics of broadcasting," he said.
But he also emphasized that many programs only get to have one run on a broadcast network in the digital age, which has made it tougher to make content investments pay off. "We have to figure out how we are going to pay for this quality content," Zucker told the Journal. "I do not think that it is a foregone conclusion that content should be free on the Internet."
Zucker also expressed confidence that NBC can produce prime-time hits again. "I think we didn't have the right management team in place, and we hadn't allocated enough resources to the team," he said.