Magazine article Newsweek

Changing the Channels: Katie and Matt Love Him Already. Now, 'Today's' Power Producer Takes on Prime Time

Magazine article Newsweek

Changing the Channels: Katie and Matt Love Him Already. Now, 'Today's' Power Producer Takes on Prime Time

Article excerpt

Jeff Zucker knows stress. This is the guy, after all, who for a six-week stretch in 1993 produced both NBC's "Today'' show and "Nightly News.'' But this fall takes the prize: NBC added a third hour to "Today,'' he oversaw the show's Olympics coverage and he ran NBC's election newscasts. All that was capped off last week by a jaw-dropping promotion. Zucker has been tapped to do for NBC Entertainment what he's done as executive producer for "Today'': crush the competition. He admitted recently that he's feeling some butterflies for the first time since he produced his debut "Today" show 10 years ago at the age of 25, after which he promptly went home and threw up. "After day one out in Burbank,'' he says, "I wonder if I'll need to find a bathroom and history will repeat itself."

If Zucker's success does repeat itself, his bosses at NBC will soon be sporting broader smiles than Matt and Katie. After all, Zucker has a remarkable track record, making "Today" the undisputed leader of morning TV and a profit powerhouse. Certainly, he faces a challenge. NBC missed out on the craze of reality programming like "Survivor'' and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.'' And a lot of new fall shows, including "Titans,'' "The Michael Richards Show'' and "Deadline,'' have died quick deaths. NBC is feeling impatient--it gave Garth Ancier, the former WB and Fox programmer, only 18 months in the job Zucker is getting as president of NBC's entertainment division. The network needs somebody who has 10 fingers and 10 toes on the country's pulse. Says Scott Sassa, head of NBC's West Coast division: "Jeff is making hundreds of calls on popular culture every day.''

Although many were surprised by Zucker's leap, NBC staffers say he has signaled his interest for a bigger challenge. And two years ago, Zucker mused in a Washington Post profile that one day he would like to run something that was "big and broken. …

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