×

CNBC Exclusive: CNBC's Erin Burnett Sits Down with Jeff Zucker, NBC Universal President & CEO on "Street Signs" (Transcript Included)

When: Monday, August 25th at 2:30PM ET
Where: CNBC's "Street Signs"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with NBC Universal President & CEO Jeff Zucker on CNBC's "Street Signs" today.

All references must be sourced to CNBC.



BURNETT: BUT 211 IS THE KEY TO WATCH. SOME PART OF THE 2008 BEIJING OLYMPICS, MAKING IT THE MOST VIEWED EVENTS IN TELEVISION HISTORY. WHAT DID NBC UNIVERSAL CHIEF JEFF ZUCKER GOING TO DO FOR AN ENCORE? LET'S FIND OUT FROM MY BOSS, JEFF ZUCKER. I KNOW YOU'RE JET-LAGGED. I WAS TOLD TO BE KIND. THE MOST WATCHED EVENT IN AMERICAN HISTORY, I KNOW YOU HAD HIGH HOPES GOING IN, AND IT EXCEEDED THEM. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE REASONS WAS?WAS IT CHINA?WAS IT BECAUSE OF MICHAEL PHELPS?

ZUCKER: I THINK IT WAS A VARIETY OF REASONS. I THINK THERE WAS A GREAT DEAL OF INTEREST IN CHINA AND THE CHINESE CAME THROUGH WITH A MAGNIFICENT, THEN I THINK THE MICHAEL PHELPS STORY TOOK OFF AND CAPTURED EVERYBODY'S IMAGINATION, AND I THINK YOU ALSO HAVE TO CONSIDER THE FACT THAT THE UNITED STATES, THE PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY WERE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO ROOT FOR. IT'S BEEN A TOUGH SUMMER YOU REPORT ON IT EVERY DAY HERE, YOU KNOW, GAS IS EXPENSIVE. THIS REALLY BROUGHT THE WHOLE FAMILY TOGETHER IN FRONT OF THE TV SET. IF YOU PUT TOGETHER CHINA AND MICHAEL PHELPS, AND LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO ROOT FOR, IT LED TO THIS GREAT RESULT.

BURNETT: DID CHINA DO PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING BETTER? YOU'VE BEEN DEALING WITH THE OLYMPICS YOUR ENTIRE CAREER, BUTTHEY HAD -- I SAW AN INTERESTINGPROFILE WITH THE CAMERAS UNDERNEATH THE WATER WHERE YOU COULD WATCH FOR IT IS FIRST TIME, WAS IT INNOVATION AFTER INNOVATION ON THE CHINESE SIDE THAT MADE IT EVEN BETTER?

Jeff Zucker
Jeff Zucker

ZUCKER: I THINK CHINA DESERVES A LOT OF CREDIT FOR PUTTING ON TERRIFIC GAMES THE FACT IS THAT WE'VE ALL BEEN AROUND A LOT OF OLYMPICS, BUT THIS ONE WAS INCREDIBLY WELL RUN, WELL ORGANIZED, NO MAJOR ISSUES. I THINK AS A RESULT THE GAMES CAME OFF WITHOUT A HITCH. THAT LED TO ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE GAMES IN HISTORY.

BURNETT: NOW WE'RE ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO SHOW -- I MEAN, THERE WERE STILLRESTRICTIONS. WE HAD TO SHOW BRIAN WILLIAMS, BUT THERE'S A VIDEO OF MICHAEL PHELPS' SECOND GOLD MEDAL WIN, 2.3 MILLION VIEWS ON THE NBC OLYMPICS WEBSITE. THAT WAS THE MOST POPULAR VIDEO.WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT ONLINE? I KNOW DIGITAL IS A CRUCIAL PART. BIGGEST LABORATORY SITE EVER?

ZUCKER: YEAH. THIS WAS A HUGE LAB FOR US TO TEST HOW CONSUMERS WANT TO USE DIGITAL MATERIALS THAT'S ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS TO COME OUT OF THE GAMES SO MUCH USAGE OF THE INTERNET, STREAMING, MOBILE, ALL THEY THINGS, WE LEARNED IT DOESN'T CANNIBALIZE. THE FACT IS WE HAD THE 211 MILLION VIEWERS

BURNETT: SORRY, I'M LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDER WATCHING THE END OF THE RACE.

ZUCKER: ONE OF THE GREAT ATHLETIC EVENTS OF ALL TIME. WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE DIGITAL LAB, AS IT WERE, IS IT DIDN'T CANNIBALIZE OUR TELEVISION, AND TWO IT ALLOWED PEOPLE TO ACCESS INFORMATION, RACES, VIDEO WHEN THEY WANTED TO WATCH IT, AND SO THIS WILL REALLY HELP US AS WE GO FORWARD, AS WE FIGURE OUT, YOU KNOW, HOW TO LEAD PEOPLE TO WHAT THEY WANT TO WATCH, WHEN THEY WANT TO WATCH IT, IT'S A GREAT NEW ERA FOR MEDIA, NOT JUST ON TELEVISION, BUT ONLINE, AND WE'LL USE THIS RESEARCH GOING FORWARD.

BURNETT: OBVIOUSLY ONE OF THE CRITICISMS -- AND THERE WERE VERY FEW, BUT ONE ABOUT THE ONLINE, MAYBE WE COULD HAVE GOTTEN MORE ADVERTISING DOLLARS HAD WE RUN IT DIFFERENTLY OR MORE LINKS, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY THAT COULD HAVE UPPED THE REVENUE?

ZUCKER: WE'RE IN AN ERA PR PEOPLE ARE JUST BEGINNING HOW TO ADVERTISE ONLINE. WE'LL TAKE THE FINDINGS FROM THESE OLYMPICS AND USE THEM IN THE VANCOUVER OLYMPICS, USE THEM IN THE LONDON OLYMPICS IN 2012, SO I FEEL VERY COMFORTABLE WITH HOW WE USED EVERYTHING WITHIN THESE GAMES FROM A DIGITAL PERSPECTIVE. WE'LL TAKE THAT TO ADVERTISERS GOING FORWARD, SHOW THEM THAT IT DOESN'T CANNIBALIZE TELEVISION, THERE'S A GREAT AUDIENCE FOR IT,AND THREE, THERE IS AN AUDIENCE FOR PEOPLE TO BE ABLE TO ADVERTISE ON IT AND GET THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT.

BURNETT: YOU DO BELIEVE IN TAPE, BUT ESPECIALLY LONDON WITH A DIFFERENT TIME DIFFERENCE, NBC NETWORK TELEVISION WILL BE USINGA LOT OF TAPES SO PEOPLE CAN SEE SWIMMING IN PRIMETIME.

ZUCKER: OF COURSE WE WILL. OBVIOUSLY THE TIME ZONE WORKED TO OUR ADVANTAGE HERE IN CHINA, AND OBVIOUSLY IN LONDON, IT WILLBE A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE. YOU CAN ASK MICHAEL PHELPS TO SWIM AT 3AM --

ZUCKER: WE MAY ASK HIM, BUT I DON'T KNOW IF HE'LL DO THAT. OBVIOUSLY LONDON WILL BE DIFFERENT. DIGITAL WILL BE DIFFERENT. THE WORLD WILL BE QUITE DIFFERENT IN FOUR YEARS, SO WE'LL TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHAT WE HAVE THERE FROM A DIGITAL PERSPECTIVE.

BURNETT: NUMBERS, 894 MILLION TO BUY THE GAMES, YOU SOLD A BILLION BEFORE YOU WENT, AND THEN ANOTHER 25 MILLION IN ADVERTISING AFTER YOU WENT. IS THAT THE OVERALL NUMBER ABOUT 131 MILLION IN PROFIT?

ZUCKER: OBVIOUSLY THERE'S PRODUCTION COSTS INVOLVED AS WELL. THE BOTTOM LINE IS WE WILL MAKE A PROFIT. IT MAY NOT BE QUITE AS LARGE AS THOSE NUMBER.

BURNETT: I HAVE A 14.6% MARGIN

ZUCKER: THERE, THAT SEEMS PRETTY HIGH. BUT LISTEN, IT CONTINUES TO BE A GREAT INVESTMENT FOR THE COMPANY, SOMETHING WE'RE INCREDIBLY PROUD OF, A SIGNATUREEVENT FOR THE COMPANY AND IT IS PROFITABLE.

BURNETT: YOU OWN VANCOUVER AND LONDON, THEN FROM THEN A LOT OF SHARKS ARE IN THE WATER. MAYBE YOUR SUCCESS WILL MAKE IT EVEN MORE EXPENSIVE TO BUY THE RIGHTS TO THE OLYMPICS AFTER. HOW MUCH WOULD YOU PAY AND WHEN ARE WE GOING TO HAVE THE BIDS?

ZUCKER: OBVIOUSLY THAT'S UP TO THE OLYMPIC COMMITTEE, OBVIOUSLY IT'S SOMETHING WE WILL BE INTERESTED IN, BUT JUST AS WE HAVE DONE UP UNTIL 2012, WE'LL MAKE A BUSINESS DECISION THAT MAKES SENSE FOR US, IF IT MAKES SENSE AT THE RIGHT TIME, WE'LL CONTINUE.

BURNETT: HERE'S THE AD, AND I WANT EVERYTHING TO KNOW I HAVE BEEN HIDING THIS. IT SAYS ALL THESE THINGS ABOUT COMMENTING ON THE DIFFERENT RACES. IT END IT SAYS, THIS HISTORIC ONE, FOR NINE NIGHTS WE WEREN'T WATCHING US, EITHER. IT'S AN AD FOR ESPN. THEY WATCHED NBC, TOO.

ZUCKER: VERY CREATIVE.

BURNETT: BUT IT DOES RAISE THE =QUESTION OF EVERYONE NOW IS TRYING TO SAY, JEFF, CONGRATULATIONS, NOW PLEASE COMEBACK AND WATCH US. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE PEOPLE

ZUCKER: KEEP WATCHING. TO WATCH NBC?

BURNETT: UM-HMM.

ZUCKER: -ALL OF US WILL BE SAD TONIGHTAT 8:00 WE WON'T TUNE IN AND HAVE THE OLYMPICS. OBVIOUSLY WE COME BACK A BIT TO REALITY, BUT HOPEFULLY THIS HAS PROVIDED A PLATFORM FOR US TO PROMOTE OUR NEW SHOWS, HISTORIC THINK THIS ARE THERE HASN'T BEENA HUGE CORRELATION BETWEEN USING THAT PLATFORM AND WHAT HAPPENS IN THE FALL, BUT HOPEFULLY IT'S BETTER THAN NOT HAVING IT, AND HOPEFULLY WE CAN TAKE ON NBC SOME OF THAT SUCCESS AND LET IT CONTINUE INTO THE FALL, AND HOPEFULLY ENJOY THAT SUCCESS ON THE ENTERTAINMENT SIDE AS WELL.

BURNETT: ARE YOU READY FOR THE QUESTION?I'M GOING TO ASK IT IN A DIFFERENT WAY.

ZUCKER: REALLY? I'M SHOCKED TO COME OUT TO BEAUTIFUL CLIFFS AND NOT GET THIS QUESTION, BUT GO AHEAD.

BURNETT: IN THE "NEW YORK POST" YESTERDAY, THIS QUOTE WAS PRINTED LET'S BE CLEAR, THE SUCCESS OF THE OLYMPICS HAS ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING ON WHAT GE DECIDES TO DO WITH NBC UNIVERSAL.

ZUCKER: YOU CAN'T EVEN ASK WITH A =STRAIGHT FACE.

BURNETT: I KNOW I CAN'T I KNOW THE ANSWER, BUT THEY SAY THIS GIVES JEFF IMMELT A CHANCE TO DO WHAT ANY GOOD BUSINESSMAN WOULD DO SELL HIGH OR SPIN OFF. I KNOW THE ANSWER IS --

ZUCKER: THAT WOULD BE THE CASE ONLY IF YOU WERE INTERESTED IN SELLING, YOU KNOW, AND I THINK THAT JEFF IMMELT IN REITERATING THESE ARE THE WHIMS OF PEOPLE, AND NBC REMAINS A CRITICAL COMPONENT OF GENERAL ELECTRIC.

BURNETT: YOU'RE THE ONE THAT'S GETTING HIM ALL THE CHINA DEALS AND BOOSTING THE WHOLE COMPANY?

ZUCKER: NO, THAT'S NOW TRUE. GE IS INCREDIBLY STRONG ON ITS OWN, IN ITS BUSINESS IN CHINA. BUT THE FACT IS, LOOK, JEFF HAS BEEN VERY CLEAR ON THIS, AND, YOU KNOW, IT'S BEEN GREAT FOR USTO BE PART OF GENERAL ELECTRIC. WE WOULDN'T HAVE HAD THE OLYMPICS WITHOUT GENERAL ELECTRIC, NOBODY WOULD HAVE GIVEN US THE BACKING AND SUPPORT TO PUT DOWN THE INVESTMENT WE PUT DOWN, AND SO IT'S BEEN GREAT FOR US, AND I THINK IT'S BEEN GREAT FOR GE, AND WE'LL CONTINUETO BE PART OF THE COMPANY.

BURNETT: TWO BRIEF QUESTIONS, FIRST IN TERMS OF WHAT'S NEXT. YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO GO OUT AND SPEND MONEY ON THINGS TO MAKE THE COMPANY BIGGER AND GROW. THE WEATHER CHANNEL, OXYGEN, WHAT'S NEXT IN TERMS OF REGIONS OR TYPES OF DEAL?

ZUCKER: JUST LAST WEEK WE ANNOUNCED ANOTHER DEAL TO ACQUIRE INTERNATIONAL TELEVISION PRODUCTION COMPANY IN THE UK CALLED CARNIVAL, SO YOU FACT IS, LOOK, WE'LL CONTINUE TO EVOLVE. WE'VE BEEN VERY ACTIVE, BUT WE'RE NOT GOING TO DO IT LIKE DRUNKEN SAILORS. WE'LL DO THINGS THAT MAKES SENSE TO CONTINUE TO GROW THE COMPANY AND POSITION OURSELVES FOR THE FUTURE. WE'LL BE IN FASTER-GROWING PARTS OF THE MEDIA BUSINESS, AND CLEARLY EXIT SLOWER-GROWING PARTS, SO THAT IT ALL MAKES SENSE. WE'VE BEEN VERY ACTIVE IN THE LAST 16 MONTHS. WE PROBABLY WON'T KEEP THAT PACEUP. WE'LL WANT TO MAKE SURE WE'RE INTEGRATING EVERYTHING PROPERLY,BUT WE'LL CONTINUE SMART AS WE GO FORWARD.

BURNETT: I'M NOT GOING TO ASK YOU AN AD QUESTION, BECAUSE THERE'S SO MUCH NOISE IN THE WATER, BUT IN TERMS OF THE OVERSEAS GROWTH QUESTION, BOB IGER TOLD TO ME WITH THIS OVERSEAS SLOWDOWN I'M NOT SEEING THIS SLOWDOWN, MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE SAYING, THE DATA KEEPS SAYING THERE'S A SLOWDOWN.

ZUCKER: CERTAINLY FROM THE MEDIA SPACE,ED INTERNATIONAL ARENA HAS CONTINUED TO BE STRONG AND VIBRANT. I CAN'T SPEAK FOR THE OTHER SECTORS, AND THEY MAY BE EXPERIENCING SOMETHING DIFFERENT, BUT FROM A IMMEDIATY PERSPECTIVE, INTERNATIONALLY THINGS REMAIN STRONG.

BURNETT: THANKS FOR COMING OUT.

ZUCKER: HAPPY TO BE HERE AND GREAT TOSEE YOU.

BURNETT: I MAKE SURE I'LL GIVE YOU THE AD.

ZUCKER: IT'S A GREAT AD, AND ESPN IS A FANTASTIC COMPANY. AND THEY'RE GREAT TO DO THIS.


About CNBC:
CNBC is the recognized world leader in business news, providing real-time financial market coverage and business information to more than 340 million homes worldwide, including more than 95 million households in the United States and Canada. The network's Business Day programming (weekdays from 5:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. ET) is produced at CNBC's headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and also includes reports from CNBC news bureaus worldwide. Additionally, CNBC viewers can manage their individual investment portfolios and gain additional in-depth information from on-air reports by accessing http://www.cnbc.com.

Members of the media can receive more information about CNBC and its programming on the NBC Universal Media Village Web site at http://nbcumv.com/cnbc/.