December 13, 2019
NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke is reportedly leaving his position in 2020, nine years after assuming the title following Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal from General Electric.
Burke would likely be replaced by Jeff Shell, current chairman of Universal Film and Entertainment, although no official announcements about the executive changes have been made by Comcast.
The 61-year-old Burke’s departure comes as NBC Universal readies Peacock, a branded subscription video-on-demand platform with an ad-supported component. It marks Comcast’s first standalone foray into over-the-top video distribution after decades of sticking behind cable-based pay-tv.
Indeed, as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, which Comcast co-owned, flourished, Burke insisted digital distribution — notably online TV — was “not all that material to our business.”
“We have deals in place with all of them,” Burke said on a 2017 fiscal call. “But it’s a very tough business and we’re skeptical it’s going to be a very large business or profitable business for the people that are in it. And they’re off to a relatively slow start.”
On that call, Burke agreed linear pay-TV would continue to be challenged by online, but suggested cable distribution, which features prominently in the company’s quadrennial Olympics, Super Bowl and NBC Network broadcasts, remained lucrative.
“[Broadcast] demand for the last two or three years has been remarkably consistent,” he said at the time. The business is “certainly more challenging, but I like our hand.”