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Jeff Zucker's tumultuous tenure is finally winding to an end at NBC Universal. When Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) takes the reins from GE (NYSE: GE ) , Steve Burke will take over the network many thought Zucker drove into the ground.
There haven't been many kind words for Zucker on the way out. He feuded with creative talent, never developed a sitcom, once NBC's trademark, and was at the center of the Leno/Conan debacle. But some are overlooking the success of NBC Universal's cable networks during his tenure. USA Network, valued by one analyst at $11.7 billion, has had a series of hit shows including Covert Affairs and White Collar, both developed under Zucker's tenure.
Burke, by most accounts, should be a step in the right direction. He worked for Michael Eisner at Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) after it acquired ABC and helped launch Disney Stores before bolting for Comcast in 1998. He has been running Comcast's operations ever since, helping build the company into the cable and media giant we know today.
For a prudent operator, the options seem to be endless for the new operator of NBC Universal. There are already rumors that Comcast's on-demand service will be deployed in new ways for NBC, getting shows to consumers shortly after prime time.
This is great news for investors after Zucker drove NBC's programming to new lows. NBC has a lot of potential considering programming is at a low and new digital distribution channels are opening almost daily. There is also the strong cable division, which generated 80% of NBC Universal's $2.3 billion in profits last year. With cable as a foundation, Burke certainly has plenty of upside opportunity if he can turn NBC around.
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