Rampant Speculation…

Politico’s Dylan Byers pens a silly piece on what happens to Brian Williams if Andy Lack comes back to helm NBC News…

Former NBC News president Andrew Lack’s return to 30 Rock — he is currently in talks about a “top job” in the news division — would catalyze a major shakeup among the executive leadership and would likely signal Brian Williams’ return to the network, current and former high-level NBC News staff told the On Media blog on Monday.

Lack, who served as NBC News president from 1993 to 2001, is a close friend and adviser to Williams and the man responsible for making him anchor of the NBC Nightly News ten years ago. High-level sources who spoke to On Media on Tuesday said that Lack’s return to NBC News should be taken as a near-guarantee that NBC would move to reinstate Williams as anchor of the Nightly News. Williams was given a six-month suspension in February for making false claims about his experience during the Iraq War, leading many industry insiders to believe that he would not return to “Nightly” at all.

One wonders who Byers’ sources were for this story but whoever they were they kinda gave Byers a bum steer.

The idea that Lack returning to NBC increases Williams chances of returning to Nightly News is profoundly flawed analysis for two big reasons.

First, it’s not going to be Lack’s call. It’s going to be Comcast Executive Vice President Steve Burke’s call. Lack would probably have input but ultimately it’s Burke’s decision since Burke was the one who took charge of the Williams scandal and made the call to have him suspended (and issue a statement about the damage done by Williams). Burke owns this, not Lack.

Second, Lack is not likely to stick his neck out for Williams regardless of their history together. Put it in these terms: would you want one of the first major decisions affecting the news division you just took over to be to bring back the guy whose scandal kicked into high gear the chain of events which brought you back in the first place? Would you want to expend whatever capital you came in with on a street fight that’s going to bring all that stuff up again? This is a particularly valid point if Nightly, helmed by Lester Holt, is still ahead of ABC’s World News.

The optics are all wrong for Lack if he was predisposed to going for bat for Williams in a big way.

Then there’s this…

In addition to signaling a Williams comeback, some sources said, a Lack chairmanship would shore up support for Lauer at NBC’s “Today” show and could even lead to Couric’s return to NBC News. (Couric, now a Yahoo News, was at NBC from 1989 to 2006.)

Shore up support for Lauer? Who on earth is going around saying Lauer is embattled still? Nobody I know. Yes, Today isn’t #1 anymore but it’s not because of Lauer, nor is it because the show is still in the chaos it was over a year ago.

And Couric? Don’t get me started…

This next graph necessitates a question…

Lack’s return could have broader implications for the peacock. As chairman of the news group, he would also be tasked with overseeing MSNBC, which has been dogged by severe ratings declines in recent years. Lack is responsible for the creation of MSNBC, though its complete transformation into a liberal network happened long after his departure.

The $64,000 question: What does Lack think of Phil Griffin? When Lack was running NBC, Griffin was still an MSNBC underling so what their relationship was like at the time directly impacts what happens should Lack take over. Would Lack’s arrival shorten Griffin’s already short leash and speed up the timeframe Griffin has to affect change before he’s removed? Or would Lack be more focused on dealing with NBC News’ broadcast properties first which could give Griffin extra breathing room?

2 Responses to “Rampant Speculation…”

  1. If NBC hires Andrew Lack again it will have less to do with Brian Williams return to NBC News – or not – than Steve Burke loss of confidence in Pat Fili-Krushel and Deborah Turness. PF-K is expected to be moved to another job at the network and I expect Deborah Turness, her hire at NBC News, could also soon depart the news division.

    Brian Williams returning to the Evening News will depend on whether Lester Holt’s ratings hold up and if William’s reputation can be somewhat rehabilitated or, conversely, whether a buyout of his newly signed $50 million 5 year contract can be negotiated. As Spud says the Williams decision is Burke’s but I’m sure Lack will have a lot more influence in that decision – one way or the other – than DT and PF-K.

    It’s been reported that Matt Lauer and Lack are good friends so I would imagine Lauer (who also has a newly extended multi year contract) would be lobbying hard to have Lack replace PF-K, who it is rumored to have a poor relationship with Lauer. Savannah Guthrie is now ensconced on the Today Show so I don’t see any room for an aging Katie Couric to return. Those stories most likely originate with her camp.

    Like Spud I don’t see what a Lack hiring would mean for MSNBC and Phil Griffin. MSNBC and CNN/HLN are in a period of flux at the moment. CNN/HLN are getting out of the cable news business, mostly in PT – at the moment, and MSNBC is rumored to be lessening their dependence on left wing opinion and moving into a non-opinion straight news operation, particularly on Dayside. We don’t know if Lack supports this change at MSNBC or not and how close he is to Griffin.

  2. […] surfaced; Brian Williams coming back to Nightly and Katie Couric rejoining NBC. I already spent considerable space explaining why I don’t think its in NBC’s interest to bring Williams back nor why […]

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