“The Peacock is cooked.” NYDN.
NYT Brian Stelter: The longest-serving president of any of the three network news divisions, Steve Capus of NBC News, stepped down from his position on Friday, six months after Comcast restructured its news units in a way that diminished his authority.
Pat Fili-Krushel, chairwoman of the NBCUniversal News Group, said in a brief telephone interview on Friday that she would “cast a wide net” while searching for a successor to Mr. Capus. In the interim, the leaders of the news division will report directly to her.
Ms. Fili-Krushel became Mr. Capus’s boss last July when Steve Burke, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, consolidated all of NBC’s news units — NBC News, the cable news channels MSNBC and CNBC, and its stake in the Weather Channel — under a new umbrella, the NBCUniversal News Group. Mr. Burke asked Ms. Fili-Krushel, one of his most trusted lieutenants, to run it, while keeping Mr. Capus and the heads of the other units in place.
Ms. Fili-Krushel worked early in her career at HBO and Lifetime. A veteran of the Walt Disney Company, where she helped program ABC, and Time Warner, where she was an administrator, she is by her own admission not a journalist. But now she is, by default, the highest-ranking woman in the American television news industry — not just at the moment, but in the history of the medium. The heads of the news divisions at ABC and CBS are men, as are the heads of the Fox News Channel, CNN, and Bloomberg.
Ms. Fili-Krushel has kept a low public profile, but has been a forceful presence behind the scenes, recently moving from her office on the 51st floor of 30 Rockefeller Center, near Mr. Burke’s, to a new one on the third floor, where NBC News is based. On Friday, she said she had spent her first six months “learning, listening and getting to know the players here.” She called the News Group an “unbelievably strong organization.”
Though Mr. Capus’s exit saddened many at NBC News on Friday, it came as little surprise. He had previously reported directly to Mr. Burke, but after the restructuring he reported to Ms. Fili-Krushel, and he made no secret of his unhappiness with the change. His contract had a clause that allowed him to leave in the event that he no longer reported to Mr. Burke, according to two people with direct knowledge of the arrangement at NBC, and he decided to exercise that right after months of contemplation. The people insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized by the network to speak publicly.
Mr. Capus told Ms. Fili-Krushel of his intent to leave last Friday. It is likely that he would have left sooner, but a series of major news stories kept him busy late last year — including Hurricane Sandy, the presidential election and the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Mr. Capus also oversaw the network’s response to the kidnapping of Richard Engel and an NBC News crew in Syria last month.
“It has been a privilege to have spent two decades here, but it is now time to head in a new direction,” he wrote in an e-mail to staff members on Friday afternoon.
Mr. Capus guided NBC through a revolutionary time in news-gathering and distribution. He maintained the news division’s profitability, managed tensions between NBC News and its increasingly liberal cable channel MSNBC, and fostered new business ventures like an in-house production company and an annual education summit. Last year, he unwound an old deal with Microsoft to give the news division complete control over its Web site, now named NBCNews.com, for the first time.
Ms. Fili-Krushel wrote in a separate e-mail to staff members that “NBC News is America’s leading source of television news and Steve has been a big part of that success.”
NBC News is the producer of the most popular evening newscast in the country. But its single biggest source of profits, the morning show “Today,” fell to second place last year, behind ABC’s “Good Morning America,” for the first time since the 1990s. The decline caused widespread anxiety inside the news division and speculation that Mr. Capus would be relieved of his duties.
Inside NBC, both Mr. Capus and the executive producer of “Today,” Jim Bell, received much of the blame for the botched removal of Ann Curry from “Today” last June, which worsened the show’s already tenuous position in the ratings. Ms. Fili-Krushel was put in charge just a few weeks later.
Mr. Bell was replaced at “Today” last fall and is now the executive producer for NBC Olympics. Savannah Guthrie is now the co-host of “Today,” and Ms. Curry is a national and international correspondent for the network, but is rarely seen. Mr. Capus’s exit was seen by some at the network as the last shoe that had to drop.
In his e-mail to staff members, Mr. Capus called it an “extremely difficult decision to walk away,” noting that he started at NBC as a producer 20 years ago this month. He did not make any mention of what he would do next. “Journalism is, indeed, a noble calling, and I have much I hope to accomplish in the next phase of my career.”