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11.10.10

Jeff Gaspin: Out at NBC

Comcast is set to announce its new plan for NBC Universal next week—and reportedly the new regime will not include the NBCU television entertainment chairman.

Comcast’s reorganization of NBC Universal claimed its second executive head, this time the neatly coiffed one of Jeff Gaspin.

Gaspin’s departure from NBCU, which was confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter, has been as badly kept a secret as Comcast’s imminent announcing of former Showtime President Bob Greenblatt to take his place. Sources previously told The Daily Beast that Comcast’s new management structure would likely leave room for either Gaspin or its own executive, Jeff Shell, but not both. News of Gaspin’s ouster is a prelude to the full reorganization announcement that is widely expected to finally come down early next week. While sources previously said Comcast admired Gaspin’s loyalty and business acumen, his departure is a function of three key factors: his handling of last year’s late-night fiasco between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien; the failure of NBC’s prime-time lineup this season; and a stable of creative firepower within NBC that has essentially squeezed him out of a job.

Comcast’s takeover of NBCU has already resulted in the resignation of CEO Jeff Zucker at the end of year. Gaspin ranks as NBCU’s second-highest-ranking executive, holding the title of chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, overseeing the company’s broadcast network, cable channels, production studio, and other assets. Indeed, a frequent criticism of Gaspin is that by overseeing so much, he really has claim over nothing. And the things he does have ownership over have blown up in his face. It was Gaspin’s idea, for instance, to move O’Brien’s Tonight Show to 12:05 a.m. to make room for a half-hour show from Leno at 11:35 p.m. last year, a decision that resulted in O’Brien eventually leaving NBCU for $32 million and his new gig at TBS. In his first year overseeing NBCU’s prime-time network slate, Gaspin has failed to produce any hits—already the network has canceled J.J. Abrams’ expensive drama Undercovers and a number of other new shows are in danger of being axed as well. Moreoever, sources previously told The Daily Beast that Comcast’s takeover has created friction in the working relationship between Gaspin, USA boss Bonnie Hammer, and NBCU Women & Lifestyle Networks head Lauren Zalaznick as they all jockeyed for position in the new management structure.

Can Bob Greenblatt Save NBC? Both Hammer and Zalaznick are understood to be getting additional cable networks inherited from Comcast added to their respective portfolios in the reorganization. Greenblatt is expected to come in with a title along the lines of president of entertainment with specific responsibility for rebuilding the NBC broadcast network. Universal Studios head Ron Meyer and NBCU Sports boss Dick Ebersol are also expected to remain in their current positions. Shell is likely to be given a role underneath Ebersol in sports, perhaps in London ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

A Comcast representative did not respond to a request for comment.

Peter Lauria is senior correspondent covering business, media, and entertainment for The Daily Beast. He previously covered music, movies, television, cable, radio, and corporate media as a business reporter for The New York Post. His work has also appeared in Avenue, Blender, and Media Magazine, and he's appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg, BBC Radio, and Reuters TV.