Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Zucker: Apple of His Eye?

When last we checked in with NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker, he was merrily trashing Steve Jobs and Apple.

What a difference a three-month-long writers’ strike in Hollywood makes.

Yesterday, in an interview in the Financial Times, Zucker said: “We’ve said all along that we admire Apple, that we want to be in business with Apple,” he said. “We’re great fans of Steve Jobs.



It was only at the end of last October when Zucker (pictured here) was slapping the digital media business, and especially Apple, in an interview with New Yorker writer Ken Auletta at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School.

In it, Zucker blamed Apple for ruining the music business.

To be fair, Zucker did add “in terms of pricing” to the idea that Apple was the villain, noting that NBCU only had $15 million in revenue for its video fare on iTunes in its last year (a service it had just pulled off of to do its own thing).

He wanted NBCU to have the ability to raise prices on some shows it was selling to get better returns, even though Apple’s Steve Jobs has stuck to his guns on keeping pricing lower.

The entertainment industry, long used to controlling all the action, has long hated this, of course, since Apple’s iPod device has essentially been the only one widely embraced by consumers.

“We don’t want to replace the dollars we were making in the analog world with pennies on the digital side,” said Zucker, in what is admittedly a very good metaphor for the fast-changing situation for old media caught in the new media tsunami.


But then he stepped right into it by suggesting Apple should pay back media companies like his. “Apple sold millions of dollars worth of hardware off the back of our content and made a lot of money,” he said.

At the time, I noted: “That’s sort of like Britney Spears asking the tabloids to hand over a big bag of Benjamins for making such bank covering her riveting high jinks and crotch emergencies. Frankly, she has a better argument than Zucker.”

Nonetheless, NBC has been fast-forward on its efforts with its Hulu video sharing site, a joint venture with News Corp. (owner of this site).

And, quite correctly, in the FT piece, Zucker noted that the strike has spurred him to begin cutting back on some old television traditions, like the pilot season and the once-glamorous upfront presentations to impress advertisers.

“Things like that are all vestiges of an era that’s gone by and won’t return,” said Zucker. “I think there were a tremendous number of inefficiencies in Hollywood and it often takes a seismic event to change them, and I think that’s what’s happened here.”

Seismic, indeed.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik