Fate of Donny Deutsch, Tina Brown Shows Uncertain

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NEW YORK ( -- NBC Universal today replaced the president of its business channel CNBC, which has had declining viewership since 2001 and faces competition from a potential spin-off of News Corp's Fox.

Mark Hoffman, currently president of an NBC affiliate in Connecticut, WVIT, will take over from Pamela Thomas-Graham, effectively immediately. Ms. Thomas-Graham, 40, who had the unfortunate job of presiding over the channel as the economy tanked and interest in business news waned, will remain at the New Jersey-based channel as chairman. Ms. Thomas-Graham, who writes mystery novels in her spare time, will focus on "potential brand extensions" and strategic planning initiatives, the company said in a news release.

First joined in 1997
Mr. Hoffman, 47, first joined CNBC in 1997 as an executive producer on two CNBC programs, The Edge and Business Center, which are no longer on the air. He became vice president of business development and later an interim president of CNBC Europe in London in 2001.

One industry executive who worked with Mr. Hoffman described the Los Angeles native as well respected. Mr. Hoffman is a "very bright guy, who is at times aggressive and is seen as abrasive, but is very smart," the executive said.

Mr. Hoffman, however, described himself to as a consensus-builder. He said he received a warm reception from around 150 CNBC staffers today during his introduction as the channel's new president.

Donny Deutsch's fate
He said his top priorities are reconnecting with CNBC, its advertisers and the cable operators. When asked about the future of CNBC's prime-time schedule, which includes low-rated but much talked about shows fronted by media insiders such as Tina Brown and Donny Deutsch, he responded, "I don't know. Let's revisit that in a month or two."

The management changes come as CNBC looks to face down a new threat from the arrival of a potential business channel from Fox News, set to launch before the end of the year.

Declining viewership
CNBC's measured viewing, both in daytime and prime time, has been in decline during the past few years. In the first quarter of 2001, CNBC's daytime average viewership ranked above 300,000; by the fourth quarter of 2004 it was down to 132,000. Its prime-time viewership moved from a high of 398,000 to 140,000 between 2001 and the end of 2004, according to Nielsen Media Research figures. CNBC, meanwhile, points to its own research regarding additional out-of-home viewing of the channel, meaning TV sets turned on in offices and other financial centers, among other locations.

Mr. Hoffman will report to Ms. Thomas-Graham and the president of NBC Universal TV Group, Jeffery Zucker. The management changes come as NBC Universal looks to polish its separate cable brands before the start of the ad-sales negotiations in May known as the upfront. Cable channels USA Network and Bravo are currently conducting agency reviews with a view to reposition and refresh their respective program offerings.

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