Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

NBC Universal Earnings Sliced in Half, but There’s a Bright Side

NUP_104949_0188The bad news for NBC Universal: The TV and movie powerhouse saw earnings drop 45 percent in the last quarter. The good news: The GE unit says that if you stripped out one-time costs, charges, etc., it would have only been down something like 15 to 25 percent. That’s right: For media conglomerates this quarter, down 20 percent is the new up.

The really good news for NBCU is that GE (GE) shareholders don’t care about its performance because they’re fixated on GE’s massive finance/credit problems. But GE does feel compelled to provide at least a little bit of data about NBC.

For the record, Jeff Zucker’s group saw revenues drop two percent, to $3.5 billion. Earnings came in at $391 million.

Here’s how GE summed up NBCU’s performance for shareholders this morning (click to enlarge):

nbc-u-q1

For those of you in a hurry, a couple highlights: The performance of NBC’s local stations, which has been horrible since the second half of 2008, remains horrible. NBC’s cable business (USA, Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, etc.) remains strong. The company says it wrote down some $55 million on its investment in Ion Networks, which owns dozens of local broadcast stations.

And GE spent a couple of words boasting about the performance of Hulu, its joint venture with News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox–and soon, Disney’s (DIS) ABC. GE noted that Hulu is now No. 2 behind Google’s (GOOG) YouTube. Worth remembering as NBC decides exactly how much energy, resources and content it wants to direct Hulu’s way this year and beyond.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald