Not that Jim Cramer isn’t perfectly capable of defending himself, and has been doing so. But at Wednesday’s McGraw-Hill Media Summit in New York NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker said Comedy Central host Jon Stewart was “incredibly unfair to CNBC and business media in general” with his criticism of Cramer for his on-air investment calls.
BusinessWeek editor Ellen Pollock began the session with Zucker by asking about the on-air battling between Stewart and Cramer. The NBCU chief acknowledged that with the economy so troubled, there is a desire to blame somebody. “To suggest CNBC was responsible is absurd,” Zucker said.
Zucker singled out Cramer for praise about two specific times when he went to bat for consumers – on CNBC in August 2007 when he called for the Fed to cut interest rates to ease the developing credit crisis and on NBC’s “Today” show in October 2008 when he said anyone who expected to need their savings in the next five years should cash out of the market.
Of course, Zucker was also asked about his controversial decision to put Jay Leno in primetime, occupying the 10-11 pm ET/PT slot on NBC five days a week. “This is not a ratings play,” Zucker conceded. He called it a proactive attempt by NBC to change the TV model and focus on business, even if programming a lower-cost talk program won’t score the ratings of a primetime drama.
Zucker warned that if TV executives don’t learn to adapt to how young people consume media in the digital age, “we will become extinct” like the Rocky Mountain News, the daily that just closed down in Denver. But he also noted that so far, the Internet is producing only “digital dimes,” which may not ever translate into the dollars enjoyed by the analog broadcasting of the past.