NBCU Jeff Zucker v. Steve Jobs

If Sun Tzu (Art of War) were alive today – he would add a chapter to his treatise on war & business – do not go out of your way to annoy Steve Jobs.

Sure, on stage Steve Jobs seems like a pleasant man dressed in jeans and a mock turtleneck and you figure someone who’s all vegan would be accommodating and forgiving … well, maybe he might let you have the last piece of tofu at dinner but when it comes to business matters, you might as well be dressed in a wife-beater, using the new aluminum keyboard to butcher a pig in his house and then asking him where his phone is so you can activate Vista.

In other words, not the smartest move you can make.

Like the old saying goes, “Don’t bluff if you’re not prepared to back it up.”

Some people seem to be soft in the head – thinking the business world is like being in pre-school, share and share alike. I hate to break it to you but the real world is just a bit harsher. You might have to accept these three facts:

Steve Jobs is smarter than you;
He is 4 moves ahead of you and;
If you are partnered with Apple, they need you a lot less than you need them.

This wasn’t always the case but it is now. You want to shuttle off Apple products into a small section of the store, we’ll just open up a chain of stores that’s the highest grossing stores in the country – by far (as measured by sales per square foot). That’s not to say everyone should partner with Apple but if you want in on the Apple’s eco-system, you are subject to Apple’s rules … it’s that simple. My solar system, my rules.

And never annoy your source of light and life … Steve Jobs … you may be cast adrift into the cold dark bleakness of empty space … alive, sure but always branded as unworthy and foolhardy … some of those deciding to annoy Steve Jobs?

Jeff Raskin – Steve took over his Macintosh project and later when Raskin had a computing project at Canon, who won the funding fight between him and Job’s NeXT?

John Sculley – Sculley looked like he won after a year but now 20 years later, just known as the CEO who got in over his head and never got another mainstream CEO gig.

Bill Gates – Of course, his rival had his decade of glory but already he is receding into the background of tech history while Steve Jobs is now well known to a new generation that wasn’t even born before personal computers. Of course, BG will hopefully be remembered for his philanthropy work but already his other legacy is fading.

Gil Amelio – Say whatever happened to that tussle over the direction of Apple?

Michael Dell – Not only groveling to sell OSX (yea, right after we grant a license to Gil Amelio, Dell is next) but now furiously paddling not to be remembered only as an entry in Wikipedia. Funny, no one calls him a ‘genius’ anymore.

Michael Eisner – Not only forced out at Disney where the board looked at him and then looked at Pixar and then at him and then at Pixar and then at him and surprise, Steve Jobs is now the LARGEST shareholder. No CEO jobs out there but his CNBC show set some sort of record for lowest viewership of a cable series … DEAL OR NO DEAL aired just before with 500,000 viewers – how many stayed around to watch his show? 95,000 … there are 300 MILLION Americans.

Doug Morris/Universal Music Group – My sheer presence and smartness in switching all our tracks to walmart.com & Rhapsody will make Steve Jobs rue the day! Or will his shareholders wonder why he is walking away from $750 million a year from Apple to do business with two companies with about 1.5% of the business … companies that had failed to make any headway against Apple for 4 years will suddenly garner a huge switch because of DRM “free” tracks from Lil Scrappy or Crime Mob? But first you have to download a Windows-only app and register. Or maybe you can just buy some CD’s and rip all the tracks you want that really, really DRM free? Or just go online and find one of 50 billion plus illegal tracks? Doug Morris came armed to a street fight with a puffy shirt. Good luck to ya Doug.

Ed Zander Motorola – You guys at Apple couldn’t design a cell phone, we’ve been at it for 15 years and look how far we’ve come! It’s in color now! Just give us iTunes, we’ll shoehorn it in there somehow. We will show you how it’s done in the cell phone industry! Result? β€œThis was a challenging quarter for Motorola in which revenue fell short of our expectations due to a decline in mobile device unit shipments,” said Ed Zander” (aka: we didn’t sell as many phones and we didn’t make any money – other than that, we’re great!).

Head of Verizon who said no to iPhone because charging $2.50 a month for bluetooth was just too valuable to take away or selling music tracks for $2.50 a track (after the $15 monthly service charge). Of course, he did promise “amazing” phones from Moto, Nokia & Samsung that would be essentially the same as the iPhone. Is this it?


Jeff Zucker/NBC Universal – My sheer presence and smartness in switching all our video sales to hulu.com will make Steve Jobs rue the day! Uh, yea … oh yea, he’s also going to take on Google’s YouTube at the same time … with FOX. If you can survive not being skinned during a luncheon with Rupert, that would be impressive already but this guy plans on taking on Steve Jobs & Google in one fell swoop also … after all, it’s not like you presided over NBC as it went from #1 to #4 … oh wait, you did – so, of course, you’re really qualified to tell us the viewers that $2 a TV show is just not right, what you want is $5 a show because consumers really want is higher pricing … sure, you can buy a season DVD for $40 in stores or $44 on iTunes (previously) but what consumers really, really want to pay $110 a year for 22 iTunes versions.

And of course, NBC previously praised iTunes as being mainly responsible for driving viewers to THE OFFICE & 30 ROCK … (saving them from cancellation) and NBC needs help as the #4 network but Zucker believes that hulu will be his legacy? I guess after $600 million spent on ivillage, failure #2 is not an option? So he’s doubling down … well, with GE’s money.

I’m sure Jeff Zucker personally approved the $5 million to come up with hulu.com – nevermind that it means butt in Indonesian but really, hulu? From the song – Hulu do you think you’re fooling? Yea, good name. Jeff, we’re not laughing with you, we’re laughing at you. It was foolhardy of you to take on Google’s YouTube but now, you’re going to roll the dice on your career to feud with Steve Jobs also? You are fighting above your weight class there, dude …

Make sure you get that ironclad agreement to get at least one airing of your TV talk show on Rupert’s new business news network … there are at least 10 million more Americans watching TV so how hard can it be to beat Michael Eisner’s 95,000 viewers?

Just think, Jeff Zucker you could be namechecked as the Gil Amelio of the 21st century! Or perhaps the new Gerald Levin?

Zucker seems to think the the second choice of viewing a network TV show will be hulu.com. Sure, it’s on the list – somewhere below torrents, recording with a DVR, recording with EyeTV, recording with a DVR and converting using Handbrake, or the most likely scenario – just not watch at all. TV rating trends in today’s times clearly indicate if the show is not on or not accessible, people simply STOP watching. While CBS & ABC have experimented with airing shows online, they have not made a significant difference while they clearly praised iTunes as a difference maker but hey …

Good luck to you Jeff Zucker in taking on Rupert, Google & Steve Jobs. Hope your brain is up to it. Hope you don’t have a super-jumbo prime mortgage … you might want to finish decorating your office in the next week or so … if you last to 2008, you should dance the hulu … I’m guessing it looks alot like this?


Filed under Advertising, Apple, Financial, Internet, Marketing, TV

18 responses to “NBCU Jeff Zucker v. Steve Jobs

  1. Jeff Zucker is a pisher. Steve Jobs is still a mensch. Pishers lose.

    A Post-iTunes Fable For NBC

    (METROXING: Great post yourself – nicely done and very fancy πŸ™‚ )

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  3. Darryl

    This is prime time media posturing at it’s best. Being a buyer, I getting a kick out of this whole thing.
    In any corporate negotiations, one of the primary rules is to keep the negotiations private. This is particularly true in dealing with Apple.
    If a decision is made to make the issue public, it’s usually a calculated risk designed to motivate the other party into your way of thinking because they would rather not have the issue be public.
    It’s always a risk\gamble. As with any gamble, the benefits can be great if it works out to your advantage. The loss\risk is usually equal or greater than the potential gain.
    I don’t think the posturing is over yet, however, it appears at this point that NBC bet on red and the ball stopped on black.
    Going public with the issue was probably the biggest mistake they could have made because now Apples’ response has made NBC appear to be the bad guys. if any price increases occur or the shows wind up unavailable to millions of iTune users, NBC will be blamed.
    This will be interesting to watch being played out. Not sure how I would squirm out of this situation be I in NBCs’ shoes.
    Today it looks as if their options are to sweat out the negative image being developed to see if the untried alternative (Hulu) will be successful or to give in to Apple having gained nothing but a black eye.
    Can’t wait to see what happens.

    (METROXING: I agree with you but clearly, Jeff Zucker/NBCU didn’t really think through going up against Steve Jobs & Apple and now NBCU has pretty much painted themselves into betting the farm on a new venture and ticking off Steve Jobs – hey look, I’m holding a bucket of paint and I’m standing in a corner . It’s fine if you’re negotiating to sell cardboard boxes to Longs Drugs but not when you negotiate with Apple).

  4. anona

    It’s Jeff Raskin, not Rankin.

    (METROXING: Thanks, I’ll correct.)

  5. Pingback: University Update - Bill Gates - NBCU Jeff Zucker v. Steve Jobs

  6. My open email to NBC Universal (I was uncharacteristically nice):


  7. don

    Great read, you hit the nail on the head. Taking on Jobs is like trying to fight off a fully loaded F-16 with a sling shot…. ain’t going work!

    Keep it up, enjoy your blog.

  8. mark

    Great article. In the Jobs Hall of Shame, you left out the forgettable CEOs of Napster, Real, and Creative.

    The NYTimes article’s slant towards NBCU shows that the leak clearly came from NBCU. With the innuendo that other networks wouldn’t sign, and that somehow iTunes was lacking in the fight against piracy, NBCU really forced Apple to come out swinging in public. It’s so clearly foolish based on past history, but that’s what happens to those who are arrogant (and couldn’t care less what history teaches.)

    (METROXING: You’re right. I was sure I left off a few πŸ™‚ )

  9. It’s always a great read when you say, “Gosh, I wish I’d written that!”.

    Not even got there first, but thought through, as you have, the history of those who did not understand Apple. I think those of us who have rachmunes for Mr. Zucker might band together and gift him from iTunes (natch!) the audiobooks “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs” (Alan Deutschman), and “The Perfect Thing” (Stephen Levy) for educational purposes. And of course a URL to the torrent for “Pirates of Silicon Valley”. That’ll learn the shmendrik!

  10. Chuck

    “Steve Jobs is smarter than you;
    He is 4 moves ahead of you and;
    If you are partnered with Apple, they need you a lot less than you need them.”

    Brilliant observations! Why can’t these dinosaur CEOs understand the above truths?

  11. Jay

    I still don’t understand the part where NBC complains about piracy. I mean they give their shows away every day for free and they just expect that nobody will record them? How is Apple supposed to keep a TV show that NBC freely sent out over the airwaves and cable without DRM from working on an iPod? The whole piracy thing sounds like it was added to the NBC rebuttal to try and make it sound like they had some reasonable concerns. When actually the piracy issue is just as dumb as the pricing issue. NBC think about it your shows are free and iTunes users are paying $1.99 for the convenience of being able to buy then easily and in a format that they can easily watch at a time that fits their schedule. The price consumers pay for your shows when they air on TV is what they are actually worth – ZERO.

    (METROXING: Yea, exactly right, it’s just a smokescreen. If NBC had just come out and said, we’re pulling the shows because we want to make hulu.com a success – at least we could respect them for being straightforward – it’s still a dumb strategy but at least they would be honest … as you rightly point out, the piracy issue is a non-starter because iTunes doesn’t sell a show until AFTER it has aired for FREE on our airwaves. So, it’s not like consumers don’t have a 2nd source and that’s not even counting torrents. Piracy is an issue before the show airs but not afterwards. As far as I know, no one has really cracked the video DRM with iTunes shows mainly because why bother – for $2, just buy the episode or surprise, a few million.billion people know how to torrent a show … in HD! Or I can “watch” it on NBC.com or wherever and do a screen copy if for some odd reason I’m that desperate … or more likley, people will just wait until the end of season and rip the DVD.)

  12. DavidEGo

    This was an excellent article. Very well-written. You are right on with this humor/truth satire.

  13. What an article, plenty of wit and humor. Good read and very well written without annoying grammer mistakes. Keep it up.

  14. iVoltage

    Great piece, well-written and bang on the money. Still chuckling – softly, of course, I’m British. Thanks!

  15. zato

    I think NBC’s actions are the first real shots fired in a war. APPL and allies vs. Microsoft and allies. The MS side has made a number of attempts to stop iTunes from reaching complete domination of online entertainment, but nothing had much effect. Now its time to get serious.

  16. THGD

    Another great, funny and perceptive article.

    I think the really smart networks, like ABC, recognize the value in iTunes as a promotional scheme more than a revenue stream.
    To them it makes sense to create a buzz for their shows through a system that already reaches a desirable demographic. In the process they make a few bucks and prepare for a future where programs are financed like movies, by viewers not advertisers.

  17. You are brilliant and I am now a fan. Jeffrey Zucker taking on Steve Jobs = definition of delusional.

  18. Scavenger

    I hate to have to take NBC’s side but Jay is apparently ignorant on how Network TV works.

    They don’t show it “for free” on cable and over the air. Just because you don’t spend money yourself on a show, it’s not free. Advertisers pay for it, cable companies pay to carry their products.

    And when the show is shown or downloaded, that causes payouts to go to actors, writers, directors, caterers etc.

    The money needs to come from somewhere.

    But it’s like THGD said, if you’re a smart network, you think of iTunes not as a revenue stream, but as a marketing stream. Any money losses are made up from that your product is front and center to anyone who goes shopping for an iPod or goes browsing at the iTunes store. And there’s the good will from folks who missed the latest Eureka or Heroes…you know, shows that trend towards geeky folks who after downloading a show will go out and tell friends about it, and blog about it, and buy a DVD set..then the expanded DVD set…then the HiDef DVD set……

    It’s that basic choice between doing what might make financial sense in the short term vs long term. Zucker is thinking short term and in televison, anyone can tell you, it’s the long term where the money’s at.

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