It’s official, Linda Yaccarino, the top advertising executive who had been at NBCU for 12 years, has quit and been named by Elon Musk as the new Twitter CEO. But we have bigger problems at hand.
NBCUniversal is now experiencing a crisis which inside the company is being referred to as a “Cuban missile crisis”. Arguably, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has wrestled with the shocking loss of NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell to a sexual harassment scandal and a Hollywood writers’ strike that’s threatening to wreck programming planning for the foreseeable future.
The company is also scrambling, like other media rivals, to deal with the absence of actors and comedians – amid strikes – who typically perform at the presentations. The person close to NBCU’s upfront production talks believes it’s unlikely that either late night comedians Seth Meyers or Jimmy Fallon, usually part of the company’s presentation, will attend this year.
Many ad buyers believe NBCU’s plan will not change drastically with Yaccarino gone. “There’s a great team in place at NBCU and they have a plan in place for the upfronts,” said Joe Marchese, a media and adtech exec to Insider. Nevertheless, Yaccarino’s departure leaves NBCU without its most visible and vocal advocate for its biggest, ad-related initiatives, including its move to develop new techniques to measure audiences in a way that both buyers and sellers can agree on. Under her leadership, the company has pushed advertisers to buy ads using non-Nielsen ratings from startups like VideoAmp and iSpot.tv. With Yaccarino no longer advocating for NBCU, there’s a question mark on how initiatives such as this one will move forward.
Although Yaccarino’s departure from NBCUniversal to Twitter was a surprise, she had been close with the company and its billionaire owner. She interviewed Musk at an ad industry conference in April, and she also recently announced an expanded deal to show content from the Paris Olympics on Twitter. Soon, she’ll be expected to deliver on it.