NBC Universal's Zalaznick to oversee Telemundo
La Revolución Cultural Comienza!
NBC Universal's Spanish-language television network Telemundo is about to get a jolt as Lauren Zalaznick -- the company's high priestess of marketing who has demonstrated a knack for turning tawdry reality shows into high culture -- will be tapped to take over the network. Zalaznick currently shepherds Bravo -- home to such splashy shows as "Top Chef," "The Millionaire Matchmaker" and "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" -- as well as the younger-skewing Oxygen channel and website iVillage.
Zalaznick's official title is President of NBC Universal Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, which includes Bravo and Oxygen as well as NBC's Green is Universal initiative.
Zalaznick's new role is expected as part of a new management structure being designed by Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke. Burke, who will become chief executive of NBC Universal when the Philadelphia based cable company takes control of General Electric's media company, is expected to unveil his organizational plan later this week.
Miami-based Telemundo has long presented enormous challenges and opportunities for NBC Universal, particularly as the U.S. Latino population grows. Telemundo has been the No. 2 Spanish-language network behind Univision Communications for nearly two decades. Recently, Telemundo has been looking over its shoulder as it faces a challenge in the ratings by Univision's secondary network, TeleFutura. Burke's plan could be to recast Telemundo as the Bravo of Spanish-language television.
NBC acquired the unit in 2002 for more than $2 billion, figuring it could channel its prime-time programming prowess into higher ratings. But things didn't follow NBC's script, and the Spanish-language operation has become a bit of an island within the vast NBC Universal enterprise.
Don Browne, a former NBC News producer, has been president of Telemundo since 2005, managing its day-to-day operations. For the last three years, NBC Universal television Chairman Jeff Gaspin has been overseeing Telemundo on the corporate level, putting renewed emphasis on Telemundo's youth-oriented cable channel mun2.
Gaspin said Monday that he would be leaving the company soon after Comcast takes charge. That means another shuffle for Telemundo. Since NBC took over the operation, three ranking executives have been in charge: Jeff Zucker, Randy Falco and Jeff Gaspin. Falco left the company in 2006 and the two Jeffs are losing their jobs as part of the Comcast takeover and reorganization.
Comcast is awaiting federal approval for its acquisition of controlling interest of NBC Universal. Once the deal closes, Comcast will own 51% and GE will retain 49%.
-- Meg James
Photo: Lauren Zalaznick. Credit: Derick E. Hingle, Bloomberg News