After an aborted attempt to turn around Marvel Entertainment, Scott Sassa has joined NBC Inc. as president of the TV stations division.
He replaces John Rohrbeck, a 30-year veteran of NBC who is credited with building one of the nation's largest and most profitable station groups over the last six years, with 12 stations that reach more than 25% of U.S. households. NBC said Rohrbeck will be reassigned to a yet-to-be-determined post.
Sassa, 38, became chief executive of Marvel in 1996 after he lost ground in a management restructuring at Turner Broadcasting System that resulted from the company's sale last year to Time Warner Inc. Sassa was a Turner director and president of the cable group, where he launched seven channels.
Before Turner, Sassa worked for Ohlmeyer Communications Co., then run by Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC West Coast. Sassa, who reports to NBC President Robert Wright, said Ohlmeyer has tried to recruit him to NBC for the last three years.
Two months after taking the helm at Marvel for a pay package that included a Manhattan townhouse, the comic book company filed for bankruptcy.
Sassa's appointment at NBC took managers at the network's stations by surprise. But analysts said his background as a programmer will help NBC better use its expanding station group as a launching pad for its own syndicated shows.
Rules governing network structure have changed in recent years. Networks are now allowed to own the programming they air, and eased ownership restrictions allow a single group to own stations that reach up to 35% of the nation's households.
"If NBC is trying to reduce its dependence on Hollywood, Sassa's appointment makes perfect sense," said Tom Wolzien, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein & Co.