In all the turmoil and head rolling at NBC, one change has gone almost unnoticed. Mark Hoffman, President of business network CNBC, is now reporting directly to NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke.
That's the very top.
Hoffman used to report to Pat Fili-Krushel the former NBC News Group Chairman, who then reported to Burke. Fili-Krushel, however, was caught in the tsunami that is the Brian Williams scandal. She oversaw CNBC, MSNBC, and NBC News and was replaced by former Bloomberg exec Andy Lack.
Lack will be overseeing MSNBC and NBC News, but not CNBC.
"There are two schools of thought here," said one former CNBC employee. One is that CNBC is making so much money Hoffman deserves a leg up. The other is that Lack needs to focus on NBC and MSNBC not CNBC, and he doesn't need that extra responsibility."
Besides, now that Nightly News is in turmoil, CNBC has replaced it as the crown jewel of the network.
"I think Hoffman went to Burke and said, 'Listen I've been $400 million in profit for you. You gave me one order, fix primetime and I fixed primetime. I'm not a problem unlike NBC and MSNBC,'" another source with knowledge of the network's thinking said.
The whole "fixing primetime" thing wasn't a CNBC or Hoffman specific problem either. It's a reflection of how business news in general is changing in the digital era.
As with all things, the internet changed the game. News that once broke on television is instantly on news sites and social media. For CNBC and Hoffman, that meant that in order to keep the network healthy, the focus had to change from daytime ratings to primetime ratings.
According to one source, Hoffman's now-former boss, Fili-Krushel, suggested he change the focus of CNBC in the evenings away from pure business reporting and into a wider variety of content — from "first in business" to "first in money." Hoffman ran with the idea.
This is why you're seeing programs like 'American Greed,' 'Shark Tank', 'The Profit' and an upcoming show called 'Restaurant Startup' at night on CNBC.
Other sources point out that 'American Greed' just aired its 100th episode last month and that Hoffman has been pursuing reality TV as a primetime strategy for over 5 years.
"He's turned primetime into a success," said another source. "I'm not convinced you can do anything to change the trends."
Another way to look at Hoffman's seeming-promotion is as a return to the way things were. When Jeff Zucker was head of NBC Universal, Hoffman reported directly to him. Fili-Krushel's layer of management was added after Burke took over. Some insiders say that the layer was unnecessary in the first place.
There is some speculation out there that Hoffman wanted the job Lack just got. A couple sources we spoke to don't buy it.
"Mark's very philosophical," said a source familiar with his thinking. "He has it easy. He's got 2-3 years left... He goes from Scarsdale to Englewood Cliffs. He's been there for 10 years... "Here's his attitude 'I run a worldwide network and it makes money... I don't need headaches in my life.'"
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