The long knives are out for NBC News President Steve Capus. Mediaite’s Jon Nicosia has some Comcast backstabbing of the highest order…
The unwavering support for Capus apparently waned in the wake of what that same Comcast official, on condition of anonymity, told Mediaite were “a number of issues, not all connected to ratings.”
Ouch. This RPG got fired a week after The New York Times reported that Capus signed a new three year deal, obviously with Comcast’s blessing. So what gives? If Capus has issues, why hitch him to yourself for another three years?
A telling set of clues come earlier in Nicosia’s article…
In fact, many of the news division’s biggest decisions, even those beyond the Today Show, are now being run by Bell first. Bell, who originally came from sports and will also be overseeing the Olympics, has apparently become “indispensable” according to a Comcast executive not directly involved with NBC News.
Say what? We know Bell is doing the Olympics but what exactly are these many “of the news division’s biggest decisions, even those beyond the Today Show, are now being run by Bell first”? Nicosia doesn’t say. But the real nugget in this sentence is the last part that signals that the anonymous Comcast backstabber isn’t part of the NBC News hierarchy. My guess would be Comcast Sports because that’s where the overlap would be between Bell, NBC News, Comcast, and our leaker…given that he’s been pegged by Nicosia to outside of NBC News’ decision tree. Unless of course this is all deliberate misdirection designed to make it look sports related to throw us off the trail of the leaker (and believe me that does happen in this industry on occasion).
And then there’s this…
While the media focuses on Ann Curry’s future, or lack thereof, at the Today Show, Mediaite has learned that the fallout from that decision has significantly strengthened the standing of her boss, Today Show executive producer Jim Bell. In fact, many of the news division’s biggest decisions, even those beyond the Today Show, are now being run by Bell first. Bell, who originally came from sports and will also be overseeing the Olympics, has apparently become “indispensable” according to a Comcast executive not directly involved with NBC News. On Thursday the Wall Street Journal even reported that it was Bell, not Capus, who had the final say on the crucial decision about whether to keep Curry on Today:
Mr. Capus had publicly said as recently as April that the team in place at “Today” was the right one, but the show’s executive producer, Jim Bell, and Mr. Burke, who have built a rapport since Mr. Burke came from his role as Mr. Robert’s second-in-command at Comcast to lead NBCUniversal, favored a more aggressive approach, according to people familiar with the matter.
I’m still banging my head against the wall trying to figure out how Nicosia came to the conclusion that Bell had the final say in the Curry decision given that the Journal never actually said anyone had the final say. “Favored a more aggressive approach” is one thing. Having final say is another matter entirely. It’s a real stretch for Nicosia to make that claim given the evidence just like it was a stretch to argue that major NBC News decisions besides Today and the Olympics are being run by Bell given the lack of supporting evidence Nicosia doesn’t present. We do know that Bell is apparently “indispensible” according to someone not connected with NBC News, which is another possible clue that this is a Sports based leak. But having someone not directly involved with NBC News say Bell is indispensable and use that to say that major NBC News decisions are running through Bell? Uh…I don’t get it. How can someone not directly involved make that argument? Based on what? Backroom tittle tattle?
What do I think is going on here? A pissing match; not inside NBC…but inside Comcast. The article sets Capus up nicely while heaping praise on Bell and giving Phil Griffin the stamp of approval. Divide and conquer: send public thumbs up signals to key people you favor while throwing the guy you don’t under the bus. There is obviously a pro Capus faction inside Comcast otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten that new deal. But it’s just as obvious from the Mediaite hand grenade that not everyone at Comcast is on board with this.
And there’s another possibility here. The article could be setting Bell up for bigger things down the road but not with NBC News; with NBC/Comcast Sports. There have been rumors that Bell is longing to return to Sports. If true, this article could lay some groundwork for such a move.