Friday, January 28, 2011

Culture Shock Likely as Comcast Takes Over NBC

From  Meg James,

In the NBC sitcom "30 Rock," the self-absorbed television chief executive, played by Alec Baldwin, obsesses over what will happen to his career when his company — NBC — is taken over by Kabletown, a fictional cable systems operator from Philadelphia.

On Friday the real-life cable company from Philadelphia — Comcast Corp. — assumes control of NBC Universal, the real-life entertainment colossus that is featured in the show. And while Steve Burke, the new chief executive of NBC Universal, is a fan of "30 Rock," one of his priorities will be to reform the NBC Universal corporate culture, one that has condoned politicking and aggrandizement, the very workplace parodied by the sitcom.

"Doing the right thing and treating people the right way. We think integrity and honesty are the foundation of a productive working environment," says the Comcast credo distributed to NBC Universal's nearly 30,000 employees Thursday. "We take our business seriously, but do not take ourselves too seriously."

Even before Comcast's official takeover Friday several key NBC executives were shown the door, including former Chief Executive Jeff Zucker. The face of MSNBC, anchor Keith Olbermann, found himself without a job too, just days before the new owners arrived. Although Comcast says it did not instigate Olbermann's ouster, his departure served as a warning that people who spar with bosses won't be tolerated.

Infusing Comcast's and Burke's management approach, one that encourages teamwork and takes a dim view of office politics, into the sprawling NBC Universal could take years.

But Burke, 52, has been in training for the job nearly his entire life. He spent his early career at Walt Disney Co., working in theme parks, retail stores and the ABC broadcast network, before joining Comcast in 1998. His father, Dan Burke, confronted a similar challenge a quarter-century ago when his Capital Cities Communications acquired the larger ABC network, which had fallen to third place, and cut layers of management and clamped down on a perks-laden culture.

Now it's up to Steve Burke to fix the once-invincible NBC, ramp up revenue at the Universal Pictures studio, elevate the Spanish-language Telemundo network and navigate a new digital world where profits remain elusive.
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