Dick Ebersol is the chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics and is the former president of NBC Sports. He has also been a massive failure in his time in the television business. Despite being awful at his job, somehow Ebersol has been tabbed by NBC to be the guy who craps all over Conan O’Brien as he leaves the Tonight Show this week.
This sort of thing happens all the time. When a television personality leaves a network the guy taking over (Jay Leno in this case) feigns graciousness over the guy leaving (Conan), while someone associated with the network lays a hatchet job on the departing talent. Ebersol is clearly the guy who will be laying into Conan.
The New York Times had some interesting insight from Ebersol in Saturday’s edition.
Referring to the pointed jokes made this week by Mr. O’Brien and David Letterman of CBS, Mr. Ebersol said it was “chicken-hearted and gutless to blame a guy you couldn’t beat in the ratings.”
He added that “what this is really about is an astounding failure by Conan.”
“He was just stubborn about not willing to broaden the appeal of the show…we bet on the wrong guy.”
Wow, OK, sounds pretty harsh and hey the guy is entitled to his opinion, right? Well, that might be true, but when you consider Ebersol’s resume it becomes clear he’s as qualified to comment on television success as Bristol Palin is to champion abstinence.
Here’s a rundown of Dick Ebersol’s career achievements:
- Created and developed the current and often criticized method under which NBC covers the Olympics. Ebersol turned the focus on the human interest side of the athletes instead of reporting on the actual competitions. That means the competitions are heavily interrupted for commercial breaks.
- He chose not to show any of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics live, instead Ebersol directed that it be shown only in prime time after a significant delay.
- In July 1989 he was named Senior Vice President of NBC News. As executive for The Today Show he presided over Jane Pauley’s removal from the anchor desk in favor of Deborah Norville. The move was heavily criticized and he was subsequently relieved of his Today Show duties.
- He was the head of NBC Sports during the gigantic failures of the 1992 Summer Olympics Triplecast, The Baseball Network and the XFL. In fact, the XFL’s broadcast on March 31, 2000 was the lowest rated show in the history of prime time television.
- With Ebersol as the point man for sports programming at the network, NBC lost the rights to the NFL in 1997 (the NFL had been on NBC since 1939), Major League Baseball in 2000, National Basketball Association in 2002 and the Belmont Stakes in 2005. NBC also recently lost the rights to any college football bowl games until at least 2015.
- Ebersol’s “major” achievements as the head of NBC Sports are the Olympics (which are expected to lose NBC $200 million this year) and an exclusive contract with Notre Dame football (which has been ranked in the top 10 just once since 1994).
- He also spearheaded the creation of a channel dedicated solely to sports nobody cares about. I’m sure that will be ratings gold!
So Dick … can I call you Dick? Dick, next time you open your gigantic trap to insult someone the public really likes by calling him a failure, remember that you’re not exactly Mr. Success.