On Tuesday, Jeff Bercovici of Portfolio.com buttonholed NBC President and CEO Jeff Zucker at a Portfolio panel discussion about media mergers and acquisitions, asking "if he thought the increasing identification of MSNBC with liberal politics was a good thing for the network's business prospects." Zucker sounded like a satisfied liberal:
The fact is MSNBC in the last 12 months has been the fastest growing cable channel in all of television, news or entertainment. So clearly it has struck a chord with the audience. I think its programming has clearly worked.
Now a lot of the basis of your question really emanates from the tremendous emergence of Keith Olbermann's program at 8 o'clock. I'm incredibly comfortable with that program. I think the network seeks and does an incredibly good job of seeking other points of view, but obviously Keith plays a major role in the voice, certainly in that hour and on the network. And I think it has been good for that network, Keith's emergence has been good for the network.
It sounds like Zucker realized in mid-answer that Olbermann is too insecure to seek out other points of view that differ from his deeply paranoid Daily Kosmonaut liberalism.
He went on to claim that apart from the baying wolves of the evening, MSNBC's just a straight-news network during the day, not an "editorial page" of the air:
And just like a newspaper that has an editorial page that often has a different point of view, that is the role that Keith and others now play on MSNBC, which for most of its day is the rest of the front section of the newspaper, and then brings an editorial point of view from its editorial point of view at 8 o'clock at night.
Speaking of what's good for business, Bercovici had noted earlier that Zucker faced his usual battery of questions about whether General Electric would unload NBC Universal, and he insisted that's not the case. But financier and Democratic money man Steven Rattner was blunter about how NBC would lay a fat egg in today's market:
Rattner considered the same question from a different point of view: whether anyone would buy NBC Universal. He didn't think so. "The market's not really happy with these companies [ie. the big media conglomerates], and the idea that one of them would wake up one day and say 'Let's go do a $30 billion acquisition,' it's simply not happening."
File photo of Zucker by Getty Images, via New York Observer.