Zucker on Olbermann: ‘Keith was an incredible talent’

By Chris Ariens 

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As a former news producer, Jeff Zucker knew the question was coming and it didn’t matter that the guy asking the question is his brother-in-law. The outgoing NBCU CEO was interviewed this morning at the annual NATPE conference in Miami Beach by Michael Natahanson, the Wall Street media analyst whose sister Caryn is married to Zucker.

Out of the gate, Nathanson asked about Keith Olbermann’s abrupt departure from MSNBC Friday night.

“What happened to the brother-in-law question?” joked Zucker. “I can’t say anything beyond what the network has already said,” he added. TVNewser has learned Zucker, whose last day as an NBC employee is this Friday, was not involved in the negotiations that led to Olbermann’s departure.

To the NATPE crowd, Zucker gave Olbermann credit for putting MSNBC on the ratings map. “I think one of the great stories is the emergence of MSNBC.

“Though Keith was an incredible talent and an incredible part of that success, I think the network is in the strongest position it has even been in, and I believe that success will continue.”

At the close of the half hour Q&A, Zucker said that Friday would be his last day at NBC. “And on Monday I have no idea what I’m going to do. But I’m kind of excited about that.”

Don’t rule out a return to TV production for the former “Today” show and “Nightly News” EP. “My most favorite memories of the last 24 years have been producing news and sports and I think a lot about getting back into that.” For now, Zucker has accepted an “Executive in Residence” role at Columbia Business School.