Jeff Zucker

Executive


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Jeff Zucker talks about his upbringing in Florida and his college years at Harvard. He discusses his early interest in journalism and his first job in television, as an NBC Researcher for the 1984 Olympics. He then details his time at Today, working his way up to Executive Producer of the show and overseeing the hiring of Katie Couric and Matt Lauer as co-hosts of the show. Zucker discusses his work as an executive at NBC and his eventual rise to CEO of NBC Universal Television Group, touching on, among other topics, the NBC Universal merger, the rise of reality television, and his idea to "supersize" NBC shows. He talks about specific shows he has overseen and championed, including Friends, The Apprentice, The Office, and 30 Rock, as well as discussing the then-current television and digital media landscape. He also touches on the then-upcoming transition from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien as host of The Tonight Show. He concludes by giving advice to aspiring producers and executives. Dan Pasternack and Karen Herman conducted the interview on June 22, 2009 and August 11, 2009 in New York, NY.

"I think that the most important thing for a television producer and a television executive to do is to have passion. If they don't love what they're doing and write about what they believe in or write about what they know or go with their gut as an executive, then they're going to be lost."

Highlights
Jeff Zucker on his vision and innovations as Executive Producer of Today
04:26
Jeff Zucker on his idea to "supersize" Friends episodes in order to compete with Survivor
03:48
Jeff Zucker on the then-upcoming switch from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien as host of The Tonight Show and Leno's planned The Jay Leno Show
04:41
Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live following 9/11
01:26
Jeff Zucker on advice to aspiring television producers and executives
00:20
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on attending Harvard and becoming President of the student newspaper; on his memories of Conan O'Brien from Harvard
On his first job in television during the 1984 Olympics; on becoming an Olympic Researcher for NBC
On how he came to work at Today; on the tumultuous atmosphere of Today when he started on the show
On his rise to Executive Producer of Today and the hiring of Katie Couric; on his vision and innovations as Executive Producer of Today

Chapter 2

On his management style as Executive Producer at Today; on being diagnosed with colon cancer
On Matt Lauer replacing Bryant Gumbel as co-host of Today; on becoming President of NBC Entertainment; on his idea to "supersize" NBC shows
On putting reality programming on NBC; on renegotiating the contracts for Frasier and Friends; on putting Scrubs on the air
On 9/11 and determining what programming was appropriate for NBC following the tragedy; on the highlights of his first year as President of NBC Entertainment; on supporting quality shows despite their relatively low ratings

Chapter 3

On NBC acquiring Bravo and Telemundo; on ER, Law & Order, and The West Wing
On becoming President of NBC's Entertainment, News & Cable Group; on the NBC-Universal merger; on The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice
On Brian Williams replacing Tom Brokaw as anchor of NBC Nightly News; on the end of Friends; on The Office
On becoming CEO of NBC Universal Television Group; on 30 Rock and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; on Katie Couric leaving Today

Chapter 4

On his role as CEO NBC Universal Television Group; on the then-upcoming switch from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien as host of The Tonight Show
On NBC Universal's international business; on digital technology and the changes it was bringing to the television industry; on advice to aspiring producers and executives
Shows

30 Rock

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Jeff Zucker on courting Tina Fey to do 30 Rock because of his conviction that she was "the next great voice for comedy"
01:33
Jeff Zucker on how Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip suffered because it premiered at the same time as 30 Rock, another NBC show that took place behind the scenes of a late-night sketch comedy show
00:51

Apprentice, The

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Jeff Zucker on The Apprentice  and The Celebrity Apprentice
02:13

ER

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Jeff Zucker on his affinity for ER as a viewer and an executive
02:17

Frasier

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Jeff Zucker on negotiating the contract for Frasier in 2001
01:02

Friends

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Jeff Zucker on his idea to "supersize" Friends episodes in order to compete with Survivor
03:48
Jeff Zucker on telling the cast of Friends about his idea to "supersize" the show's episodes
00:42
Jeff Zucker on his pride in having been able to keep Friends on the air longer than had been expected and the difficulty for the network in finding another show that would be as big of a hit
02:04
Jeff Zucker on his work to keep Friends on the air longer than was expected and the difficulty in finding an equally successful show once it ended
03:13
Jeff Zucker on the Friends  spin-off, Joey, and its ultimate failure
00:52

Honeymooners, The

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Jeff Zucker on his favorite line from The Honeymooners
00:41
Jeff Zucker on his all-time favorite television show, The Honeymooners
01:07

Jay Leno Show, The

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Jeff Zucker on the then-upcoming switch from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien as host of The Tonight Show  and Leno's planned The Jay Leno Show
04:41

Law & Order

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Jeff Zucker on the importance of Law & Order and its spin-offs to NBC
01:42

NBC News

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Jeff Zucker on Brian Williams replacing Tom Brokaw as anchor of NBC Nightly News
01:39

Office, The

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Jeff Zucker on the rocky first season of The Office and the demographics of its audience
02:16

Olympics

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Jeff Zucker on working as a Researcher for ABC during the 1984 Olympics
03:12

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

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Jeff Zucker on NBC's acquisition of Bravo and the success of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
03:48

Saturday Night Live

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Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live following 9/11
01:26

Scrubs

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Jeff Zucker on the possibility that if Scrubs had been a multi-cam comedy, it could have been an even bigger hit
02:37

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

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Jeff Zucker on how Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip suffered because it premiered at the same time as 30 Rock, another NBC show that took place behind the scenes of a late-night sketch comedy show
00:51

Survivor

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Jeff Zucker on his idea to "supersize" Friends episodes in order to compete with Survivor
03:48

Today

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Jeff Zucker on Jane Pauley offering him a job on Today
02:08
Jeff Zucker on his first job at Today and the tumultuous atmosphere of the show at that time
05:50
Jeff Zucker on his rise to Executive Producer of Today and the hiring of Katie Couric
04:19
Jeff Zucker on his vision and innovations as Executive Producer of Today
04:26
Jeff Zucker on how he negotiated with the network to take chances and skip commercials while Executive Producer at Today
02:33
Jeff Zucker on why Today was such a good fit for him as a Producer
01:42
Jeff Zucker on a typical day of production for Today
02:01
Jeff Zucker on his management style as Executive Producer at Today
03:11
Jeff Zucker on Matt Lauer replacing Bryant Gumbel as co-host of Today
02:53
Jeff Zucker on his pride in Today and its success during his tenure as Executive Producer
01:27
Jeff Zucker on Katie Couric leaving Today and being replaced by Meredith Viera
03:27

Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, The

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Jeff Zucker on the then-upcoming switch from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien as host of The Tonight Show  and Leno's planned The Jay Leno Show
04:41

Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The

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Jeff Zucker on the then-upcoming switch from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien as host of The Tonight Show and Leno's planned The Jay Leno Show
04:41

West Wing, The

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Jeff Zucker on his admiration for The West Wing and its success
00:47
Topics

9/11

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on where he was on 9/11 and determining what programming was appropriate for NBC following the tragedy
03:36
Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live following 9/11
01:26

Advice

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on following your passion and working hard at what you love
02:12
Jeff Zucker on trusting your gut as a Producer and Executive, and not relying solely on research
01:28
Jeff Zucker on advice to aspiring television producers and executives
00:20

Criticism of TV

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on the impact on the network of putting reality programming on NBC
02:01

Diversity in Television

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Jeff Zucker on the importance of diversity in television
00:58

First Big Break

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on getting his first job after college, as an Olympic Researcher for NBC
04:52

Historic Events and Social Change

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on where he was on 9/11 and determining what programming was appropriate for NBC following the tragedy
03:36
Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live following 9/11
01:26
Jeff Zucker on the importance of diversity in television
00:58

Media Consolidation

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Jeff Zucker on the NBC-Universal merger
05:08

Memorable Moments on Television

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live  following 9/11
01:26

New Media

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on the development of Hulu and its success up to that time (in 2009)
01:59

Olympic Games

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on working as a Researcher for ABC during the 1984 Olympics
03:12
Jeff Zucker on working as a Researcher for NBC during the 1988 Olympics
03:00

Overcoming Adversity

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on being diagnosed with colon cancer
09:29

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on a pattern in his career of moving from sports coverage to wider news coverage
03:12
Jeff Zucker on getting his first job after college, as an Olympic Researcher for NBC
04:52
Jeff Zucker on being diagnosed with colon cancer
09:29

Pop Culture

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live  following 9/11
01:26

Sports

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on a pattern in his career of moving from sports coverage to wider news coverage
03:12
Jeff Zucker on working as a Researcher for ABC during the 1984 Olympics
03:12
Jeff Zucker on working as a Researcher for NBC during the 1988 Olympics
03:00

Television Industry

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on following your passion and working hard at what you love
02:12
Jeff Zucker on trusting your gut as a Producer and Executive, and not relying solely on research
01:28
Jeff Zucker on why television shows are traditionally either thirty or sixty minutes in length
01:10
Jeff Zucker on the impact on the network of putting reality programming on NBC
02:01
Jeff Zucker on the NBC-Universal merger
05:08
Jeff Zucker on dealing with shows that fail, and knowing when to take a show off the air
01:01
Jeff Zucker on the development of Hulu and its success up to that time (in 2009)
01:59
Jeff Zucker on advice to aspiring television producers and executives
00:20

Trash TV

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on the impact on the network of putting reality programming on NBC
02:01

We Celebrated

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live  following 9/11
01:26

We Cried

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live  following 9/11
01:26

We Laughed

View Topic
Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live  following 9/11
01:26
Professions

Executives

View Profession
Jeff Zucker on his management style as Executive Producer at Today
03:11
Jeff Zucker on the job responsibilities of being the President of NBC Entertainment
01:10
Jeff Zucker on dealing with shows that fail, and knowing when to take a show off the air
01:10
Jeff Zucker on his management style as the CEO of NBC Universal Television Group
01:54
Jeff Zucker on advice to aspiring television producers and executives
00:20

Producers

View Profession
Jeff Zucker on why Today  was such a good fit for him as a Producer
01:42
Jeff Zucker on advice to aspiring television producers and executives
00:20

Television Executive

View Profession
Jeff Zucker on his management style as Executive Producer at Today
03:11
Jeff Zucker on the job responsibilities of being the President of NBC Entertainment
01:10
Jeff Zucker on dealing with shows that fail, and knowing when to take a show off the air
01:10
Jeff Zucker on his management style as the CEO of NBC Universal Television Group
01:54
Jeff Zucker on advice to aspiring television producers and executives
00:20
Genres

Comedy Series

View Genre
Jeff Zucker on his favorite line from The Honeymooners
00:41
Jeff Zucker on his idea to "supersize" Friends episodes in order to compete with Survivor
03:48
Jeff Zucker on telling the cast of Friends about his idea to "supersize" the show's episodes
00:42
Jeff Zucker on negotiating the contract for Frasier in 2001
01:02
Jeff Zucker on his pride in having been able to keep Friends on the air longer than had been expected and the difficulty for the network in finding another show that would be as big of a hit
02:04
Jeff Zucker on the possibility that if Scrubs had been a multi-cam comedy, it could have been an even bigger hit
02:30
Jeff Zucker on his work to keep Friends on the air longer than was expected and the difficulty in finding an equally successful show once it ended
03:13
Jeff Zucker on the Friends spin-off, Joey, and its ultimate failure
00:52
Jeff Zucker on the rocky first season of The Office and the demographics of its audience
02:16
Jeff Zucker on courting Tina Fey to do 30 Rock because of his conviction that she was "the next great voice for comedy"
00:29
Jeff Zucker on how Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip suffered because it premiered at the same time as 30 Rock, another NBC show that took place behind the scenes of a late night sketch comedy show
00:51
Jeff Zucker on his all-time favorite television show, The Honeymooners
01:07

Drama Series

View Genre
Jeff Zucker on his affinity for ER as a viewer and an executive
02:17
Jeff Zucker on his admiration for The West Wing and its success
00:47
Jeff Zucker on how Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip suffered because it premiered at the same time as 30 Rock, another NBC show that took place behind the scenes of a late night sketch comedy show
00:51

Late Night

View Genre
Jeff Zucker on the first episode of Saturday Night Live following 9/11
01:26
Jeff Zucker on the then-upcoming switch from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien as host of The Tonight Show  and Leno's planned The Jay Leno Show
04:41

Legal Dramas

View Genre
Jeff Zucker on the importance of Law & Order and its spin-offs to NBC
01:42

News and Documentary

View Genre
Jeff Zucker on his early fascination with local news
00:54
Jeff Zucker on Jane Pauley offering him a job on Today
02:08
Jeff Zucker on his first job at Today and the tumultuous atmosphere of the show at that time
05:50
Jeff Zucker on his rise to Executive Producer of Today  and the hiring of Katie Couric
04:19
Jeff Zucker on his vision and innovations as Executive Producer of Today
04:26
Jeff Zucker on how he negotiated with the network to take chances and skip commercials while Executive Producer at Today
02:33
Jeff Zucker on why Today was such a good fit for him as a Producer
01:42
Jeff Zucker on a typical day of production for Today
02:01
Jeff Zucker on his management style as Executive Producer at Today
03:11
Jeff Zucker on Matt Lauer replacing Bryant Gumbel as co-host of Today
02:53
Jeff Zucker on his pride in Today and its success during his tenure as Executive Producer
01:27
Jeff Zucker on Brian Williams replacing Tom Brokaw as anchor of NBC Nightly News
01:39
Jeff Zucker on Katie Couric leaving Today and being replaced by Meredith Viera
03:27

Reality TV

View Genre
Jeff Zucker on NBC's reluctance to move into Reality TV programming at the time of his becoming President of NBC Entertainment
02:45
Jeff Zucker on his idea to "supersize" Friends episodes in order to compete with Survivor
03:48
Jeff Zucker on putting Fear Factor, The Weakest Link, and The Apprentice on NBC
02:30
Jeff Zucker on the impact on the network of putting reality programming on NBC
02:01
Jeff Zucker on why Reality TV resonated with audiences when it first gained popularity in the early 2000s
01:21
Jeff Zucker on NBC's acquisition of Bravo and the success of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
03:48
Jeff Zucker on The Apprentice and The Celebrity Apprentice
02:13

Sports

View Genre
Jeff Zucker on working as a Researcher for ABC during the 1984 Olympics
03:12
Jeff Zucker on working as a Researcher for NBC during the 1988 Olympics
03:00
Jeff Zucker on the XFL
01:28
People

Roone Arledge

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on his admiration for Executive Roone Arledge's work during the 1984 Olympics
00:46

Tom Brokaw

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Jeff Zucker on Brian Williams replacing Tom Brokaw as anchor of NBC Nightly News
01:39

Mark Burnett

View Interview Page
Jeff Zucker on buying The Apprentice from Mark Burnett and Donald Trump
01:18

Katie Couric

View Interview Page
Jeff Zucker on his rise to Executive Producer of Today and the hiring of Katie Couric
04:19
Jeff Zucker on Katie Couric leaving Today and being replaced by Meredith Viera
03:27

Tina Fey

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on courting Tina Fey to do 30 Rock because of his conviction that she was "the next great voice for comedy"
01:33

Bryant Gumbel

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on a lesson he learned from Bryant Gumbel while Executive Producer of Today
00:28
Jeff Zucker on Matt Lauer replacing Bryant Gumbel as co-host of Today
02:53

Matt Lauer

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on Matt Lauer replacing Bryant Gumbel as co-host of Today
02:53

Bill Lawrence

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on the possibility that if Scrubs had been a multi-cam comedy, it could have been an even bigger hit, and the fact that this was not creator Bill Lawrence's vision for the show
01:59

Jay Leno

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on the then-upcoming switch from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien as host of The Tonight Show  and Leno's planned The Jay Leno Show
04:41

Lorne Michaels

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on his relationship with Lorne Michaels
00:56

Leslie Moonves

View Interview Page
Jeff Zucker on the competition between himself and President and CEO of CBS, Leslie Moonves
00:45

Deborah Norville

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on the transition from Jane Pauley to Deborah Norville as hosts of Today
02:02

Conan O'Brien

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on attending Harvard with Conan O'Brien and pranks they played on each other as Presidents of the Harvard Crimson and the Harvard Lampoon, respectively
02:47
Jeff Zucker on the then-upcoming switch from Jay Leno to Conan O'Brien as host of The Tonight Show  and Leno's planned The Jay Leno Show
04:41

Jane Pauley

View Interview Page
Jeff Zucker on Jane Pauley offering him a job on Today
02:08
Jeff Zucker on the transition from Jane Pauley to Deborah Norville as hosts of Today
02:02

Donald J. Trump

View Person Page
Jeff Zucker on buying The Apprentice from Mark Burnett and Donald Trump
01:18

John Wells

View Interview Page
Jeff Zucker on his admiration for John Wells, Executive Producer of ER, and how well he handled the many cast changes throughout the run of the series
01:05

Brian Williams

View Interview Page
Jeff Zucker on Brian Williams replacing Tom Brokaw as anchor of NBC Nightly News
01:39

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