Amid the chaos of the Late Night Wars, Jeff Zucker decided to try to set the record straight by appearing on Charlie Rose. He remained very political throughout, but the fact remains the same: Jeff Zucker is a terrible executive.
As evinced by this entire interview, it is nigh impossible to get Jeff Zucker to admit he made a mistake. So the fact that Charlie Rose cornered Zucker into an admission of fallibility warrants applause. To start everything off, Zucker feels he needs to remind everyone just how awesome NBC is in every other area if you choose to ignore the Late Night Debacle. Olympics! Nightly News! The Office! Come on, NBC still totally rules. But perception is reality (and so are ratings), and the ratings—and perception—of NBC, are in the proverbial toilet.
But let's wait just a second. Shouldn't we all feel bad for Zucker, and maybe in our sympathy focus our attention somewhere else? Zucker tells Rose that he has received death threats—actual death threats— because of the whole Late Night disaster. Alright, Jeff Zucker may not be good at his job, but it certainly shouldn't warrant threatening his life. He then tries to put the whole situation in perspective by telling people to stop paying attention to NBC and care about something more important, like Haiti.
Next up as the scapegoat: DVRs! Since everyone is using DVRs nowadays, Zucker thought that Leno in primetime would be a nice alternative to all the other cable and network programming. Hold on just one second. So the head of NBC, once the biggest network in America, was trying to put alternative programming in a hugely important primetime slot? It's pretty easy to see why NBC is in shambles with decision-making logic like this.
He went on to say that the reason a decision had to be made to finally end this failure of an experiment was not so much the ratings, but because all the affiliates were breathing down his neck. So not only was Zucker destroying Conan's Tonight Show, he was screwing over every single local news broadcast on NBC across the country.
Jeff Zucker goes on record as saying he's alright with Conan's "prerogative" to refuse to be pushed back 30 minutes to 12:05.
So Jeff Zucker doesn't come off as a heinous dick. He just comes off as a man who made numerous bad decisions (in hindsight!), didn't communicate these decisions effectively at all, dicked over one of his employees in a very public manner as a result, reneged on a promise, and tried to make a gigantic conglomerate television company air "alternative" programming in a crucial primetime slot. How exactly does Jeff Zucker remain employed?