NBC Profits Declined 49 Percent, Mostly Due To Olympics

Things were supposed to be getting better for TV broadcasters this quarter…. NBC Universal (NYSE: GE), essentially a footnote in parent General Electric’s quarterly earnings until its merger with cable giant Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) gets approved, performed worse this past quarter than it did last year. The network’s profits were down 49 percent, while revenues fell 18 percent — compare that to last year’s 45 percent profit decline and the mere 2 percent revenue drop. The numbers are a bit surprising, considering that many forecasters had expected broadcast TV to benefit from the ad spending rebound. However, the company had warned that it would lose at least $200 million on the Winter Olympics, so that probably accounts for some of Q1’s pain. Typically, GE, which currently owns about 80 percent of NBCU, points out that broadcast side’s weakness is offset by the cable channel’s strengths. Those details usually come out during the call at 8:30 am ET. The webcast is available here.
During the earnings call, GE CEO Jeff Immelt said that the $223 million loss for NBCU on the Vancouver Olympics — not as bad as the worst case estimate of a $250 million loss on the games.
Not much new on the Comcast/NBC deal was shared with investors and analysts listening in. Immelt said that the hearings have concluded and the company is continuing to work through the comments period. He also noted that things are looking up for NBC’s broadcast side, with Jay Leno back on the Tonight Show and the 10pm slot back to regular programming, which produced a 14 percent rise in ratings. No comment so far on Conan O’Brien heading to TBS. More to come