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CNBC EXCLUSIVE: CNBC TRANSCRIPT: CNBC'S ERIN BURNETT INTERVIEWS NBC UNIVERSAL PRESIDENT & CEO JEFF ZUCKER ON "STREET SIGNS" TODAY AT 2:30PM

Jeff Zucker
Jeff Zucker

When: Today, Tuesday, Dec. 9th at 2:30PM ET

Where: CNBC's "STREET SIGNS"

Following is the unofficial transcript of an exclusive CNBC interview with NBC Universal President & CEO Jeff Zucker on CNBC'S " Street Signs " today.

All references must be sourced to CNBC.

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ERIN BURNETT: JOINING US NOW, THE MAN WHO MADE THE DECISION, PRESIDENT & CEO OF NBC UNIVERSAL MR. JEFF ZUCKER. SO THE NUMBERS THAT I HAVE SEEN ARE THAT YOUR 10 O'CLOCK SLOT, IF YOU WERE TO PUT IN A SCRIPTED DRAMA FOR EXAMPLE, WAS GOING TO COST YOU $15 MILLION A WEEK. JAY LENO'S SHOW ALL-IN IS GOING TO COST YOU LESS THAN $2 MILLION A WEEK . IS IT REALLY LUCKY 13 FOR YOU - THAT BIG OF A SAVINGS?

JEFF ZUCKER: WELL I DON'T KNOW THAT IT'S ONE-FOR-ONE LIKE THAT. THE POINT IS WELL TAKEN THAT OBVIOUSLY THERE IS A COST BENEFIT TO DOING THIS. BUT THAT REALLY WAS NOT THE REAL DRIVER. THE REAL DRIVER OF THIS DECISION WAS THAT JAY LENO WAS AVAILABLE AND, HE'S A UNIQUE TALENT WHO DECIDED THAT HE WANTED TO CONTINUE TO WORK. AND SO THAT WAS REALLY CRITICAL TO EVERYTHING. IF WE DIDN'T FIND A PLACE FOR HIM WITH CONAN O'BRIEN TAKING OVER THE TONIGHT SHOW IN JUNE, A DECISION THAT WE MADE FIVE YEARS AGO AND THAT WE ARE AS SUPPORTIVE OF TODAY AS WE'VE EVER BEEN, IF WE DIDN'T FIND A PLACE FOR JAY HE WOULD HAVE ENDED UP ON THE COMPETITION AND THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT WE DIDN'T WANT TO SEE. SO WE WERE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING FOR JAY TO DO. THE FACT IS, THE VIEWING HABITS OF PRIME TIME VIEWERS TODAY ARE DIFFERENT THAN THEY'VE BEEN IN THE PAST. THEY'RE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT. 10 O'CLOCK HAS NOT BEEN THAT SUCCESSFUL A TIME PERIOD FOR US IN RECENT YEARS. SO YOU COUPLE ALL OF THAT WITH THE FACT THAT OBVIOUSLY THERE IS A COST SAVINGS INVOLVED AND I THINK IT ALL ADDS UP TO A GOOD DECISION.

BURNETT: JEFF, YOU'RE IN A POSITION HERE, I MEAN, LOOK WE KNOW THINGS ARE RADICALLY CHANGING IN THIS INDUSTRY AND YOU'VE BEEN AT FOREFRONT OF THAT. BUT PROGRAMMING ON NETWORK TELEVISION IS MUCH THE WAY NOW AS IT WAS A GENERATION AGO AND NOW YOU'RE SITTING HERE BEING THE PERSON TO START TO ORCHESTRATE WHAT COULD BE A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE. IS THE CHANGE IN YOUR 10 O'CLOCK HOUR JUST THE BEGINNING. ARE YOU MAKING BIG CHANGES AT 8, 9 'OCLOCK ? MAYBE BRIAN WILLIAMS GET S A WHOLE HOUR AT 8? OR SOMETHING JUST DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT?

ZUCKER: I THINK WE ALL HAVE TO QUESTION THE STATUS QUO. THE BROADCAST NETWORK TELEVISION MODEL HAS BEEN IN PLACE FOR 50 YEARS AND THE WORLD IS DIFFERENT TODAY. CABLE TELEVISION, PLACES LIKE CNBC, PLACES LIKE THE USA NETWORK ARE NOW MUCH MORE PROMINENT THAN THEY'VE EVER BEEN. THE DVR TECHNOLOGY, TIVO, DIGITAL VIDEO RECORDERS, PEOPLE ARE TAPING THEIR FAVORITE PROGRAMS AND WATCHING THEM BACK OFTEN AT 10 O'CLOCK. ALL OF THESE TECHNOLOGIES, THE COMPUTER, THE INTERNET, DID NOT EXIST FIVE YEARS AGO. THE WORLD IS SO MUCH DIFFERENT TODAY. AND YET WE'RE STILL OPERATING UNDER THE SAME RULES THAT WERE INVENTED 50 YEARS AGO IN PRIMETIME NETWORK TELEVISION. I THINK WE HAVE TO ASK OURSELVES, IS IT TIME TO CHANGE EVERYTHING? WE SHOULDN'T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE THINGS . THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE SHOULD CHANGE EVERYTHING. THE NIGHTLY NEWS IS DOING A FANTASTIC JOB AT 6:30. BRIAN WILLIAMS' RATING IS THIS YEAR ARE GREATER THAN THEY WERE A YEAR AGO. MORE PEOPLE ARE WATCHING. BUT YET WE HAVE TO QUESTION EVERYTHING. I THINK THIS IS ONE EXAMPLE OF THAT. I THINK, WITH REGARD TO NBC AND WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO DO IN PRIME TIME BETWEEN 8 AND 10, THAT WON'T CHANGE. I THINK YOU'RE GOING TO SEE GREAT SCRIPTED PROGRAMS BETWEEN 8 AND 10 . AND THIS WILL ACTUALLY GIVE THEM A CLEARER FOCUS. AND WHERE THEY WERE PROGRAMMING 19 TO 22 HOURS A WEEK, NOW MONDAY TO FRIDAY, 8 TO 10, THEIR FOCUS IS MUCH CLEARER.

BURNETT: BUT UNCHANGED IN 8:00 TO 10:00 IN TERMS OF HAVING --

ZUCKER: THERE WILL BE SCRIPTED PROGRAMMING OF THE HIGHEST CALIBER, WE'RE INVESTING MORE MONEY THAN WE HAVE IN A LONG TIME IN MAKING SURE THAT WE HAVE THE GREAT PROGRAMS BETWEEN 8:00 AND 10:00 SO THAT WE'RE AS STRONG AS WE CAN BE THERE. AS GREAT LEAD-INS TO JAY LENO.ANOTHER IMPORTANT POINT IS THAT JAY IS GOING TO BE IN ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING 46 TO 48 WEEKS A YEAR, AS OPPOSED TO MOST PRIME TIME DRAMAS AT 10 O'CLOCK THAT ARE IN ORIGINALS 22 TO 24 WEEKS A YEAR. JAY WILL BE ORIGINAL VIRTUALLY YEAR -ROUND. AND I THINK THAT'S A HUGE ADVANTAGE.

BURNETT: DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE OTHERS FOLLOW? MAYBE JON STEWART APPEARS ON ABC. ARE YOU MAKING THE FIRST STEP IN A DIRECTION THAT OTHER PEOPLE WILL FOLLOW AND COMPLETELY CHANGE WHAT WE SEE AT NIGHT?

ZUCKER: LOOK, I DON'T KNOW. I MEAN I THINK EVERYBODY'S GOT TO DECIDE WHAT'S BEST FOR THEIR OWN BUSINESS. OUR COMPETITORS, YOU KNOW , HAVE HAD DIFFERENT DEGREES OF SUCCESS. AND THEY'RE ALL INCREDIBLY STRONG AND INCREDIBLY SMART. EVERYBODY'S GOT TO DO WHAT'S BEST FOR THEM. I THINK ONE OF THE REAL REASONS THIS MADE SENSE FOR US IS THAT JAY LENO WAS AVAILABLE. AND THAT IF WE DIDN'T DO THIS WITH JAY, HE WAS GOING END UP ON THE COMPETITION. SO I THINK THAT,COUPLED WITH THE FACT WE REALLY DO FEEL THERE'S A PARADIGM SHIFT GOING ON IN NETWORK TELEVISION AND THAT WE HAVE DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY AND THAT WE HAVE TO LOOK AT OUR COST STRUCTURE AND THAT THIS WILL CHANGE THE WORLD, I THINK THAT'S WHAT MADE SENSE AND WHETHER COMPETITORS STEP IN AND DO THE SAME THAT'LL BE FOR THEM TO DECIDE BUT I WOULDN'T PREJUDGE ANY OF THAT .

BURNETT: WHAT'S INTERESTING ON THE COST SIDE -- I KNOW YOU SAID IT'S DIFFERENT, THE NUMBER OF WEEKS A YEAR YOU'RE IN PROGRAMMING, ETCETERA. BVIOUSLY YOU HAVE THIS FOR A LOT LESS COST AT 10:00. WHAT ABOUT ON THE REVENUE SIDE? DO YOU HAVE ANY SENSE FROM ADVERTISERS OF WHETHER THERE WOULD BE A SHIFT AND IT WOULD BE TO THE UPSIDE?

ZUCKER: LOOK, OBVIOUSLY THE REVENUES WILL BE DETERMINED BY HOW THE PROGRAM PERFORMS. BUT OBVIOUSLY WE DON'T EXPECT TO DO QUITE THE SAME RATINGS AS AN ORIGINAL EPISODE OF A COMPETITIVE DRAMA LIKE "CSI MIAMI" ON THE OTHER HAND,BECAUSE WE WILL BE ORIGINAL FOR 46, 48 WEEKS A YEAR IN THE AGGREGATE OVER 52 WEEKS I DO THINK WE WILL DO A COMPARABLE RATING WHEN YOU LOOK AT IT OVER THAT TIME PERIOD. AND REALLY, THAT'S THE WAY ADVERTISERS BUY TIME. THEY DON'T BUY JUST 22 WEEKS A YEAR. OR 24 WEEKS A YEAR. THEY WANT SOMETHING. THEY'VE BEEN ASKING US FOR ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING 52 WEEKS A YEAR. SO I THINK THIS ANSWERS THAT QUESTION FROM THEM. AND THE FACT IS, AS A RESULT , I THINK THE REVENUE WILL FOLLOW AND I THINK REVENUE WILL BE THERE. SO I THINK YOU DO GET THE SAME REVENUE AND I THINK THE COSTS COME DOWN AND THAT'S A GOOD BUSINESS EQUATION.

BURNETT: ANALYSTS TALKING ABOUT THIS TODAY SEE THIS REFERENCE TO A LONG TIME, HE'S GOING TO BE HERE A LONG TIME, LONG TERM. THEY WANT TO KNOW HOW LONG.

ZUCKER: WELL, LOOK, WE'VE MADE A MULTIYEAR COMMITMENT TO JAY. HE'S MADE A MULTIYEAR COMMITMENT TO US. I DON'T THINK ANYBODY WHO WANTS TO WORK LONGER OR HARDER THAN JAY. HE WASN'T READY TO RETIRE. HE SAID THAT IN HIS PRESS CONFERENCE TODAY. AND THE FACT THAT HE'S GOING TO WORK 46 TO 48 WEEKS A YEAR IS ANOTHER TESTAMENT TO THAT. WE'VE GOT A MULTI YEAR COMMITTMENT TO THIS AND I THINK IT WILL BE VERY EXCITING FOR MANY YEARS TO COME ON NBC

BURNETT: JEFF, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

ZUCKER: GOOD TO BE WITH YOU, ERIN.

BURNETT: JEFF ZUCKER, TALKING ABOUT THE MEDIA STORY OF THE DAY.





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