By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 19, 2010 at 7:59AM
You know things are bad when the CEO of NBC Universal goes on Charlie Rose to try and save his job.
Jeff Zucker took full responsibility for the programming experiments that haven't worked, such as putting Jay Leno on at 10 PM. He believes in taking chances, "not stupid chances, chances that have some degree of possibility of success," he said: "Nothing tried, nothing gained."
He must improve NBC's programming in future, he said, while pointing out that network ups and downs are cyclical. And he stands by the current management that is in place. (He has no choice, having tried out Ben Silverman and failed.) He's confident that they will do better. He didn't let Charlie Rose throw him off-message. Rose was tough about how many people are saying that NBC is a "shambles" and that Zucker needs to be replaced. Zucker feels confident that the current media firestorm--overblown, in his mind--will soon pass, he said.
Truth is, Leno's ratings were higher at 10 PM than they were on The Tonight Show, but weren't competitive for prime time. His Tonight Show ratings were much higher than O'Brien's or any other late night show. But can he recover them? His older viewership likely will be less rattled by all this craziness than O'Brien's younger fanbase. Leno may have picked up new viewers, too. But for the moment popular opinion and ratings are surging O'Brien's way.
Did Zucker improve his situation with this transparent PR maneuver? No way. He just gave Rose a chance to lay out everything that has gone so terribly wrong.