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Survivor Universal Studios: Meyer vs. Zucker

by Anne Thompson
April 15, 2010 8:15 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

Look for a full-bore game of survival at NBC Universal. What will happen when wily ex-CAA agency head Ron Meyer--who has successfully run Universal Pictures as president and COO through three owners over 15 years, the longest-serving studio chief in Hollywood today-- goes head-to-head with tough NBC Universal president and CEO Jeff Zucker? These two alpha males are not chums; it's likely that only one of them will survive the Comcast acquisition. Each one wants to win.

Thompson on Hollywood

One insider from Lankershim Boulevard observes:

zucker thinks meyer is all fluff, no substance. meyer thinks zucker is a fool, too full of himself to realize what a disaster he's been at the helm of nbc...the animosity on both sides is heating up fast and furious.

Who do you think will come out on top?

Bullet-headed Zucker has outlasted and outplayed a lot of players in his long career at NBC. It's the only place he has ever worked. But Zucker was forced during the messy Conan vs. Leno fracas to spin himself on Charlie Rose. While Leno is back on top, NBC is still losing a lot of money, and many wonder how Zucker could have lasted this long. There's miles to go before the Comcast deal closes--it could be early 2011.

While Universal is also coming out of a losing streak (The Wolfman, Green Zone) at the box office, the Ridley Scott tentpole Robin Hood is poised to open Cannes. But never underestimate the genial, sweet-talking Meyer--he's a steely ex-Marine. He ditched his two scapegoat co-chairmen, Marc Shmuger and David Linde, to reposition the studio as starting clean, even though he promoted his executive bench, Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley--who just gave a vote of confidence to their marketing team by promoting Michael Moses to co-president, reporting to marketing president Eddie Egan. (Fogelson is their old marketing boss.) These guys learned a lot from Shmuger, a gifted marketing man. Shrewd move.

My money's on Meyer.

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More: Studios, Players, TV, Universal/Focus Features

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