NBC prepares for cable takeover by ComCastSubmitted by SteveMT on Sat, 11/14/2009 - 12:14
Broadcast pioneer NBC prepares for cable takeover
Broadcasting pioneer NBC brings a lot of history as cable TV operator prepares to take control
10:40 am EST, Saturday November 14, 2009
NEW YORK (AP) -- Eight decades after pioneering the concept of broadcasting, NBC is on the verge of a startling move that illustrates broadcast television's decline.
Cable TV operator Comcast Corp. is expected to buy a controlling stake in NBC Universal, perhaps as early as this week, bringing the network of Johnny Carson, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Tom Brokaw under the corporate control of the company that owns the Golf Channel and E! Entertainment Television.
"This is highly symbolic," said Tim Brooks, who had worked at NBC for 20 years and now writes books on television history.
Starting Sunday, Vivendi SA has an option to sell its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal. Majority owner General Electric Co. is expected to buy it and then sell a 51 percent stake of the entire NBC Universal unit to Comcast, which serves about a quarter of the nation's subscription TV households.
Broadcast people, the folks who remember when television was ABC, CBS, NBC and little else, used to look down upon cable.
The idea of broadcast TV was implied in the name; the networks tried to reach the broadest possible audience. For cable it's important to do something specific and do it well, and the audience doesn't need to be as large.
NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker recognizes this. Cable properties such as USA, SyFy, CNBC and The Weather Channel mean more to NBC Universal's bottom line than staggering NBC, fourth place in the ratings.
And those cable properties -- more than the flagship "Peacock" network -- were the draw for Comcast. By owning more content, Comcast further hedges its bets as mainly a distributor of shows in case viewers ditch their cable TV subscriptions and migrate to the Internet, mobile devices or a platform that has yet to emerge. The company could charge for the shows or sell ads wherever the viewers are.
In a sense, NBC would become a pioneer again, as it seeks to stay relevant amid intensifying audience fragmentation.