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Zucker to Head GE's NBC Universal

Jeff Zucker succeeds Bob Wright as CEO of the media business.
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General Electric

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made it official on Tuesday: Jeff Zucker, at 41, will take the helm as president and CEO at NBC Universal, the company's $16 billion media business.

The longtime head of NBC Universal Television Group takes the top spot from Bob Wright, 63, who has run NBC since it was acquired by GE in the mid-1980s.

Wright is retiring amid a turnaround effort aimed at keeping pace with the sea-changes washing over the media landscape due to the rise of the Internet. He remains GE vice chairman.

In his day, Wright transformed NBC from a TV network to a diversified media conglomerate with cable channels, a film studio, theme parks and Web sites. But financially, the business has been an underperformer for its parent.

In his place, Zucker will be charged with finishing the turnaround. He needs to revitalize the company's prime-time lineup while keeping NBC in step with the digital revolution that is challenging the future of so-called Old Media. That means grappling with thorny issues such as piracy and digital distribution models, as well as tapping into new talent to win over younger audiences.

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In his former job, Zucker was criticized by the media establishment for embracing crass reality TV shows, but he was ultimately vindicated as such ventures as

Fear Factor

and

The Apprentice

became commercial successes.

NBC posted a profit of $2.9 billion in 2006 on revenue of $16.2 billion, marking a slight improvement over the year-ago period, but the results fell short of expectations. The unit's operating profit increased 5% to $841 million, falling short of the 10% pace GE had expected. Revenue came in at the low end of the company's guidance, growing at 1% to $4.21 billion.

Shares of GE were recently up by 5 cents, or 0.1%, to $36.43.