For the past few months Hollywood's favorite two guessing games have been: Who's going to take over NBC/Universal and what's going to happen to ex-Fox chief Peter Chernin? Well, yesterday the two games collided in a paradigm-exploding pile-up.
On its Media Decoder blog, the NY Times raised the curtain on the Comcast war room, revealing the man pulling the levers is none other than mogul-on-the-loose Chernin himself. And now the media world is wondering, is Chernin about to rule Hollywood once more — and this time for keeps?
For Hollywood's reporting savants this is a day that will live in infamy. To learn after months of reporting on the pending sale, they missed this huge element of the wheeling-deadling. There will be no Toldjas on this shift of the tectonic plates.
Certainly, they can be excused for missing it. It seems, according to the NYT reporter that Comcast more or less, kept Chernin locked away under the tightest scrutiny, secreting him into the takeover bunker in phony moustache under the cover of darkness, to advise a select group of cable titans who would know the shadowy adviser only as "Our Friend From The Coast." Amazingly, Comcast was able to even keep the news from Machievelli's foremost disciple in showbiz, NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, the man whose job would be most threatened if Chernin's quiet advisory role were to, as they say, become operational after a merger.
So if Zucker didn't know, you can't really blame Nikki Finke for not knowing. But when you make your name pathologically claiming to have known everything about everything that is happening in Hollywood before the players themselves knew it, to have not known about the biggest thing happening currently in entertainment must be regarded as a wee bit of a setback. (The Deadline blog has been notably, uncharacteristically quiet on the subject thus far.)
But even for the non-Toldja oriented press corps, this revelation kinda demonstrates how little our reporting teams often know about what's really happening in the business beyond what's spoon-fed them by various interests. The major outlets have been covering this story for months, none revealing any hint that the Big C had a finger in this pie.
Some other questions, and possible answers, raised by the speculation frenzy:
- The piece claims Jeff Zucker has been assured he would keep his job under a Comcast regime, even furnishing him with the specifics of what his reporting structure would be? Can we believe that? Does he believe that? How is that even possible?
- David Poland offers that this news supplies the missing link to Comcast's world-domination scheme, namely putting someone who understands what to do with content into the mix. By his calculations, this buyout, with Chernin aboard, would make the new company second only to NewsCorp in global integrated reach.
- And what about Vivendi? Don't they still have to figure out what to do with their stake before any of this can move forward? Do our French friends count for nothing?
- With all our blustering about Goldman Sachs and Wall St. greed in the face of economic collapse, where is the outrage for Hollywood salaries run amok in the face of the Death of Media? Especially salaries for former Studio Chiefs. According to the NYT piece, Chernin's goodbye package, in exchange for not running Fox included, "movie and television production deals with 20th Century Fox, and perks such as the use of a private jet and a car and driver. In 2008, he earned a $34 million pay package, according to a regulatory filing." AIG, you're not dreaming big enough!