CEO Steve Burke brings turnaround at NBCUniversal

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NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke, who acknowledges being a bit of a taskmaster, is in unfamiliar territory. He took over the top job at a time when NBC Entertainment was hemorrhaging $600 million a year. Now the network is poised to end the current prime-time season on top among coveted 18- to 49-year-olds -- the first time in 10 years that it will finish in first place in the ratings war.

The television networks are beginning to sell their commercial time for the upcoming season in the annual advertising auction known as the upfront market. Advertisers are expected to commit as much as $11 billion for network TV time, with about $8.5 billion of that earmarked for prime-time shows. NBC hopes to strengthen its lineup even more this fall with the addition of new shows including the political thriller “State of Affairs” and the romantic comedy “Marry Me.”

The ad market in 2014 has been weaker than expected, so NBC's dramatic improvement strengthens its hand in negotiations. NBC hopes that its newfound edge will help it grab ad dollars away from ABC, CBS, Fox and other competitors.

NBC's prime-time spots had been selling at a discount to the rates at CBS, Fox and ABC, which enabled the other networks to collect $500 million to nearly $1 billion more a year in revenue. Burke is determined that NBC will make strides in closing the revenue gap during this ad market.

CEO Steve Burke brings turnaround at NBCUniversal