@ UBS Media Week: NBCU’s Zucker: Making Sure Digital Dollars Don’t Become Pennies; $15M From Apple

Among the goals Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC Universal, (NYSE: GE) outlined for the company during the lunch session at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference: replacing the $15 million associated with sales of downloads of the company’s prime-time lineup on Apple’s (NSDQ: AAPL) iTunes. Still, he indicated that digital is viewed as a more experimental, uncertain entity within the company and so, in terms of his list of priorities, it ranks last. Looking ahead to next year, Zucker’s plans, in order, include greater focus on cable – which he repeatedly noted accounts for 50 percent of NBCU’s profits – and a turnaround at NBC Entertainment, not for bottom line reasons, but because of perception. Lastly, he expects to continue NBCU’s international expansion and “make some more moves on the digital side.” Also, he said he’s pleased with the usage online video site Hulu, the JV with News Corp., (NYSE: NWS) has received and that he expects it to exit the current private beta stage sometime shortly after the new year. Some more on Zucker’s plans: More after the jump.

The economics of digital: Discussing the financial transition from traditional media to new media, Zucker said he wants to make sure “we’re not replacing dollars with pennies.” Given the uncertain value of content in the digital world, Zucker said that unidentified rivals have been “chasing press releases,” and experimenting with different ways of putting their content out there. “But nobody has figured out the bottom line of the digital economic model.” Over time this will change. We want to make content available wherever consumers want it.

Apple’s inflexible pricing: Zucker said that the decision to let its TV programming download deal with Apple expire wasn’t difficult. “We had 40 percent of the market share on the video side of iTunes, we were most popular.” Somewhat dismissively, Zucker noted the Apple deal was worth $15 million in profit to NBCU last year. “Still, that’s nothing to sneeze at that, every dollar matters. But it wasn

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