NBC Universal CEO Jeffrey Zucker dismissed speculation that the entertainment conglomerate’s parent, General Electric Co., would contemplate selling the company after the coming Olympics, even as he admitted that the TV business is at “an inflection point” thanks to emerging digital means of distribution and consumption.
Speculation that GE might sell NBC Universal has surfaced time and again, as media pundits have wondered what an industrial conglomerate such as GE was doing with an entertainment property that rises and falls based on the ability of its various programs to seize the public’s imagination. A new report has suggested GE might sell after the Summer 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Makes little sense
Speaking at a breakfast organized by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, Mr. Zucker suggested it made little sense for GE to sell NBC in coming months because of a variety of advertising opportunities that would come available. Not only has NBC shown growth in recent quarters, he said, but political elections and NBC’s first Super Bowl broadcast in several years following the Olympics could bode well for the company’s ad sales.
Nonetheless, Mr. Zucker recognized that the media business is in a state of flux and uncertainty. “The issue we want to solve,” he said, is “we don’t want to replace the dollars we were making in the old model with the pennies” people seem willing to pay to support content transmitted via digital means. A network’s saving grace, he said, is its ability to produce content that people will choose to see. “Content is our friend. People are going to want great content.”
He also said NBC had taken steps in recent months to stabilize its business as its broadcast network suffered a downturn in ratings due to its inability to replace hit programs such as “Friends” and “Frasier” with equally big successes. Cable has become a much bigger part of NBC Universal’s bottom line, he said, though NBC still gets the lion’s share of media attention.
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