"Commercial ratings are certainly fair game, but it is going to be a strain, it's going to be an additional review," he said, noting that commercial ratings could put network sales executives in a tricky situation when it comes to telling clients their creative isn't working. Nielsen is set to release its first set of commercial ratings Nov. 18 and "Nielsen will be the potential winner when we sort it all out," Mr. Wright quipped.
Mr. Wright spoke as part of an Advertising Week event hosted by Advertising Age sibling TelevisionWeek, and his remarks touched on a wide range of topics -- from new media to "Sunday Night Football" to Katie Couric. Within his remarks, he outlined a vision of an advertising future where DVRs are more prevalent, and he said advertising will most likely have a bigger presence inside shows or will more closely mirror programming content, citing as an example the Golf Channel.
The online hits
When asked which of his competitors was doing the best job in the area of new media, he said: "Time Warner is all the more knowledgeable because of AOL -- Google and Yahoo generate all the heat. MySpace and Facebook, they are the programming hits." However, Mr. Wright did question the longevity of those social networks, given the speed with which Friendster has fallen from grace. "Fox has a very big hit on its hands [in MySpace]," he said. "What it will be in the next four to five years, I don'' know. Right now, News Corp. is the tallest kid in the class."
Regarding what steps NBC had taken to prevent Katie Couric from leaving the network's "Today" show to become the evening news anchor at CBS, he said, "We had wanted her to stay and she made a commitment for four years and she talked about syndication as one of the things she wanted to do." He added that Ms. Couric may have soured on that after witnessing NBC News colleague Jane Pauley's poor performance in the syndication business. Mr. Wright said the company had not discussed her succeeding Tom Brokaw as an evening-news anchor because Ms. Couric "really hadn't raised her hand to go in that direction." He said, however, that NBC's evening news program has not been hurt by Ms. Couric's presence on CBS.
Telemundo, the producer
On the subject of NBC's Spanish-language network Telemundo, Mr. Wright said the company was producing so much original material �- four hours of prime time a night -- that "we're thinking of it more of a production business" and that "maybe we should have outside investors."
Mr. Wright, who discussed the cyclical business of a TV industry in which everyone brings you ideas that are too similar to the successful shows you already have, said he did not want to see NBC in fourth place again at the end of next season. He said even third would better than fourth.
Commenting on a New York Post item that implied General Electric Co. CEO Jeffrey Immelt has been quietly searching for Mr. Wright's replacement, the NBC Universal chief said, "They'll be writing that story for a long time."