Conan has made it clear that he has no interest in having his Tonight Show bumped to 12:05 am to make room for Jay Leno at 11:35. (And wouldn't that make it the Tomorrow Show, anyway?)
That's an ultimatum for NBC Universal (GE) CEO Jeff Zucker who must now (quickly)decide either to keep Conan in the slot he was promised or watch him jump to another network -- probably News Corp.'s Fox (NWSA).
Turns out, this is not the first time that O'Brien and Jeff Zucker, the CEO of NBC Universal, have skirmished. The first was, by certain measures, even fiercer than today.
The first time these two faced off was in the '80s, at Harvard. Zucker was the editor of the Crimson, the daily newspaper. O'Brien ran the Lampoon, the humor magazine.
Back in the day, the staffs of the two publications often pulled pranks on each other. And in that vein, early one morning, O'Brien and his pals broke into the Crimson offices to steal that day's run of papers.
O'Brien riffed about this stunt -- proudly, in fact -- when I talked with him for a 2007 Fortune profile of Zucker, "Life imitates TV,": "Jeff went nuclear right away," O'Brien recalled. "He called the police. Not the campus police, which were the kind and gentle police. He called the Cambridge police."
O'Brien soon found himself spread-eagled, cuffed, and listening to his Miranda rights -- in the hands of a Cambridge cop.
"I remember thinking that Jeff is a different species than I am," O'Brien said, of course milking the story for comic effect. "That species could easily rip my throat open."
With Comcast (CMCSA) finalizing its deal to buy 51% of NBC Universal from General Electric (GE), skeptics are asking: Why would Comcast CEO Brian Roberts put his faith in Jeff Zucker, the NBCU chief who has dragged the NBC broadcast network from first to fourth place?
Because Jeff Zucker is one of the most determined, driven, ambitious, ingenious, competitive, compelling, resilient people you will ever meet.
Read "Life imitates TV," a Fortune MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 3, 2009 1:15 PM ET
"The N.F.L. is more of a guarantee of success than if you got Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie to do an hour drama series for the network. You can't guarantee that it will be a ratings success."
-- Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal (GE) Sports, today in a New York Times story about Sunday Night Football's stellar ratings--one of the few bright spots for the woe-begotten broadcast network.
While MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 6, 2009 12:50 PM ET
"Advertisers have made it clear that they want a safe environment unpolluted by videos of cats on skateboards."
-- Jeff Zucker, CEO of General Electric's (GE) NBC Universal, in the New York Times. On Thursday ABC, owned by Disney (DIS), announced that it would begin showing its programs on Hulu.com, a joint venture established by NBC and News Corporation's (NWS.A) Fox. The move further casts the video site as the home MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Apr 30, 2009 6:50 PM ET
Defining a brand and sticking to it is always difficult. Particularly in a downturn.
Which is why the success of Bravo - the NBC Universal cable network that serves up food, fashion, beauty, design and pop culture to upscale audiences - is all the more impressive.
This morning, I went to Bravo's "upfront" presentation, where NBCU's Lauren Zalaznick, who built the network, and her team pitched their new season and their growth MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 14, 2009 1:55 PM ET
"I want to personally congratulate Jeff Zucker and NBCU on their success in the litigation and thank Jeff for resolving this in a professional manner."
-- Producer Harvey Weinstein in a statement Wednesday, ending a six-month battle over Project Runway. Weinstein admits he erred in moving the show from Bravo--owned by General Electric's (GE) NBC Universal--to Lifetime without giving NBCU a shot to keep it. Lifetime reportedly paid $150 million for MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Apr 2, 2009 5:51 PM ET
I went out to lunch today. Really. Even as you've read this week about the slashing and shrinking inside my company, Time Inc. (TWX), and across the magazine industry (even Conde Nast, the proud, privately-held protector of privilege and perks is axing), I have to eat. I have to schmooze. My job depends upon it.
Allow me to defend the expense-account lunch. Here are my rules of (lunchtime) engagement, honed over MOREPatricia Sellers - Oct 31, 2008 3:56 PM ET
I've gotten to know Gina Bianchini. She's the CEO of Ning, the Silicon Valley startup that supplies the infrastructure to help you build your own social networking Web site. Think Home Depot for the social-network set. The other day, she "introduced" me via e-mail to her chairman and financial backer, Marc Andreessen. I had to laugh and tell both of them that Marc and I actually had met before, though MOREPatricia Sellers - Aug 29, 2008 12:01 PM ET
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