Zucker realigns NBC team

Times Staff Writer

NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker began building his own team Thursday by carving up the company’s vast TV empire into three chunks and putting key executives in charge.

The troika includes two of Zucker’s most trusted allies -- Jeff Gaspin and Marc Graboff -- as well as Beth Comstock, the former marketing chief of parent company General Electric Co. who was dispatched to NBC 14 months ago. The promotions had been expected since Zucker was named CEO last week.

Meanwhile, NBC has been negotiating but has not reached a deal to extend the contract of Kevin Reilly, NBC Entertainment president. Reilly’s current pact expires this summer.

“We are very hopeful that Kevin will continue working here, we want him to continue here,” Graboff said.


Although Graboff kept his same title -- president of NBC Universal Television, West Coast -- he took on greater responsibilities. Reilly, NBC Universal Television Studio chief Angela Bromstad and John Miller, president of the NBC Agency, the company’s in-house promotion machine, now will report to Graboff.

The realignment restores a structure previously used at NBC of having one business executive in charge of the New York-based company’s West Coast TV operations. Graboff, 50, is an attorney and former business affairs chief for NBC and CBS. He went to NBC in 2000, a month before Zucker arrived in Burbank to run NBC’s entertainment division. Graboff immediately joined Zucker’s inner circle.

Gaspin, 46, came away with a prized piece of TV. His title is president of NBC Universal Cable and Digital Content. In addition to overseeing the programming of the company’s profitable cable channels, including USA Network, Bravo and Sci Fi, Gaspin will take over cable distribution -- the side of the business that brings in the revenue.

“I’ve been a business person or a content person, and I’m grateful that now I can do both,” Gaspin said.

He met Zucker 17 years ago at NBC News, and returned to NBC in 2001 to help Zucker establish a beachhead in reality TV. By then, Gaspin had made a name for himself at the cable channel VH-1, developing such shows as “Behind the Music.”

Comstock, 46, is president of NBC Universal Integrated Media and responsible for digital media and TV ad sales. Another recruit from GE, Mike Pilot, head of ad sales, will report to her. Notably, Comstock finally has the duties that GE Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt envisioned when he sent her to NBC in December 2005. At that time, placing ad sales under Comstock prompted an uprising among senior executives, forcing NBC to rethink the plan.

Research, digital strategy, strategic marketing and the iVillage website divisions will report to Comstock. Two years ago, Comstock was chief marketing officer for GE, overseeing marketing and sales development. She got her start in TV publicity with CBS Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting and NBC.

“The priority is growing like crazy in the digital space, and advertising is who we are,” Comstock said. “My job is to make sure that we pull all of those resources together.”