The American television industry was hit with a double dose of big news on Friday, with Jeff Zucker announcing that he would be stepping down from his post as NBC Universal's chief executive.
Zucker's widely-anticipated departure will take place once the merger between NBC Universal and the telecommunications giant Comcast goes through. The deal has not yet been approved, having been subjected to congressional scrutiny over the course of the year.
"It has not been an easy or simple decision," Zucker wrote in an email to staff.
"I have spent my entire adult life here, more than 24 years. This is the only place I have ever worked. The only professional thing I have ever known."
Unlike the axing of Jon Klein from CNN, the timing of Zucker's departure was expected, with speculation continuing over the course of the year. The NBC chief had been quizzed on his future as recently as Wednesday, and refused to give a straight answer.
Pressure for Zucker's ousting had been coming from Comcast, which is set to take a 51 per cent stake in NBC Universal under the Comcast-NBC deal. In an interview with The New York Times, the NBC chief executive confirmed that in a meeting with Comcast's chief operating officer Steve Burke, it had been made clear that he would not be wanted.
"We had both gotten to the same place. [Burke] made it clear that they wanted to move on at the close of the deal and I was completely comfortable with that."
No love lost
The NBC chief will leave a decidedly mixed legacy at the entertainment company, having been subjected to ongoing criticism from figures in the industry.
Several insiders used Twitter to make sardonic remarks following news of his demise. Danny Zuker, currently working as an executive producer on ABC's Modern Family, wrote: "Jeff Zucker weighing options. He's had many offers but not sure which company he will destroy next."
Zucker became the president of NBC's entertainment division in 2000, and took the post as the president of NBC Television Group in 2004. Since then, he ascended to the positions of president and chief executive of NBC Universal.
Zucker's own remarks - that he could not detect "any particular reason" for his demise apart from Comcast's general desire for fresh blood at the top - were derided by some commentators as self-serving.
During his time at the helm, NBC Universal's cable channels have performed strongly. But the NBC broadcast network's popularity has collapsed, leaving it struggling in fourth place among the major American television networks.
Most recently, his role at the entertainment giant was tainted by the debacle surrounding the handling of the late-night television host Conan O'Brien earlier this year. O'Brien walked out in acrimonious circumstances after NBC executives indicated that they wanted to move him to a later timeslot, in order to make way for the return of Jay Leno to the 11:35pm timeslot.
Media Spy discussion: NBC