Comcast Buying NBC Makes Me Nervous – Should I Be?

Published 4 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 9:06 am,

nbc logo Comcast Buying NBC Makes Me Nervous   Should I Be?

Comcast is a pretty big company above and beyond the obvious of providing cable services to the masses, and now it’s in the process of acquiring NBC.

Last year, when the economy was in the tank and “Joe the Plumber” was scared for his job and cutting back on his spending, Comcast had set itself up to survive the economic instability.  In 2008, Comcast made .91 cents a share in earnings, which equates to revenues of $34.3 billion. They made a gross profit of just over $20 billion and their reported net income was that of $2.5 billion.

With Comcast buying into NBC Universal for a majority ownership, that leaves parent company, GE (General Electric), with 49% ownership stake. Comcast is paying out to GE around $6.5 billion in cash and $7.25 billion in programming for that 51% stake. GE remains in control of the rest of the company, valued at $30 billion in the complicated deal.

Key Elements Of The Transaction are as follows:

• NBCU will borrow approximately $9.1 billion from third-party lenders and distribute the cash to GE.

• NBCU, valued at $30 billion, will be contributed to the newly formed joint venture. Comcast will contribute its programming businesses and certain other properties valued at $7.25 billion.

• GE will acquire Vivendi’s 20% interest in NBCU for $5.8 billion. GE will purchase approximately 38% of Vivendi’s interest (or approximately 7.66% of all outstanding NBCU shares) from Vivendi for $2 billion in September 2010, if the Comcast transaction is not closed by then. GE will acquire the remaining 62% of Vivendi’s interest (or approximately 12.34% of all outstanding NBCU shares) for $3.8 billion when the transaction closes.

• Comcast will make a payment to GE of approximately $6.5 billion in cash subject to certain adjustments based on various events between signing and closing.

• The new venture will be 51% owned by Comcast and 49% owned by GE.

• GE expects to realize $9.8 billion pre-tax in cash before debt reduction and transaction fees and after buyout of the Vivendi stake. GE expects to realize approximately $8 billion in cash after paying down the existing NBCU debt and transaction fees.

• GE will be entitled to elect to cause the joint venture to redeem one-half of its interest at year 3 ½ and its remaining interest at year 7. The joint venture’s obligations to complete those purchases will be subject to the venture’s leverage ratio not exceeding 2.75X EBITDA and the venture continuing to hold investment-grade ratings. Comcast also has certain rights to purchase GE’s interest in the venture at specified times. All such transactions would be done at a 20% premium to public market value with 50% sharing of upside above the closing valuation.

• To the extent the joint venture is not required to meet GE’s redemption requests, Comcast will provide a backstop up to a maximum of $2.875 billion for the first redemption and a total backstop of $5.750 billion.

The move is seen as a protective measure against the possible dwindling number of cable TV subscribers as more and more people flock to the internet for their entertainment. Or, Comcast simply wants to own more movies and TV shows.

As it stands, these two companies individually both bring an impressive portfolio into an even more impressive, collective portfolio.

The different parts of NBC include

  • Bravo,
  • CNBC,
  • Hulu (Joint venture with Fox Entertainment Group, and ABC)
  • iVillage,
  • MSNBC cable TV,
  • MSNBC.com,
  • NBC News,
  • NBC Universal Television Group,
  • NBC,
  • NBC.com,
  • qubo,
  • Syfy,
  • Telemundo Television Studios,
  • The Weather Channel,
  • Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida
  • Universal Studios Florida
  • Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California
  • Universal Studios Japan in Osaka
  • Universal’s Islands of Adventure
  • USA Network,
  • Wet ‘n Wild – Orlando

NBC Universal Global Networks include:

  • 13th STREET,
  • Studio Universal,
  • Universal Channel,
  • the international (non-U.S.) Hallmark Channels,
  • Movies 24,
  • Diva TV,
  • KidsCo (joint venture).
–~~~~~~~~~~~~–

Nabbing up NBC is also going to give Comcast the rights to some premiere sporting events like the 2012 Olympics.

Comcast Comcast Buying NBC Makes Me Nervous   Should I Be?

Comcast comes to the table with their own portfolio which includes:

  • 25 million television subscribers in 39 of the 50 U.S. States
  • 15 million Internet service customers
  • 6.4 million telephone service accounts. (It’s the 3rd largest phone provider in the U.S..)

Additionally, Comcast owns or partially owns the following networks:

  • CN8,
  • Comcast SportsNet,
  • SportsNet New York,
  • MLB Network Comcast Sports Southeast/Charter Sports Southeast,
  • E! Entertainment,
  • Style Network,
  • G4,
  • Versus,
  • The Golf Channel,
  • AZN Television, and
  • FEARnet. <- One of my personal favorites!

Comcast Is A Focused Business

Comcast is focused on making money. With all of these entities being pulled under the same roof, will we still have variability of choices or do you think they might do what many large corporations do when they absorb other companies? That would be trimming the fat and “reorganizing” the infrastructure.

This had me wondering if we will be seeing some changes at Hulu, as the question about Hulu charging for content had come up in the past.  But Comcast addressed the issue pretty quickly by saying that Hulu will be business as usual. In fact, they said that some new content will appear on the popular internet streaming site and other shows will appear on the Hulu competitor called TV Everywhere. TV Everywhere is something that Comcast, Time Warner and a few other cable companies rolled out last summer.

When all is said and done, I do see Comcast doing some double dipping. Entertainment and sporting programming needs sponsors and advertisers to pay for production. All the while, Comcast can charge their 25 million customers the usual fees for that same programming. Sweet for them.

Will The Customer Reap Any Benefits From NBComcast-Uni?

It’s no mystery that producing entertainment is an expensive endeavor. I have to wonder why GE was selling NBC. Was NBC-Uni falling short financially somewhere? Was the sale necessary for a needed influx of funds to keep going? I’ve seen that a number of times in motorsports when a team sells a stake of their team for just that reason. Sell or go under. If that’s the case, don’t be surprised that when Comcast moves in, some trimming or reorganizing really does take place.

We can’t say for sure without knowing the details of NBC Universal’s true financial plight.

What possible advantages could the consumer see with this joint venture? Movies that come from Universal Studios could become available more readily through video on demand (VOD) services.

Optimally, being a wishful thinker, this could mean that we have movies on VOD at the same time some of these projects come to DVD or even when a project opens in theaters. That should sooth some of our pirate-like readers over on our conversation about Movie Piracy!

Of course with access to recent movies and Comcast providing internet access, I can only guess that we could see content become available on the Internet just like cable’s On Demand. It could be called Net Demand, or On Demand Net! (There, I just coined some phrases before they did. Now they have to pay me if they use my idea!)

I’m personally worried for one of my favored networks, the Syfy Channel. I believe they’re doing alright but I’d hate to see this situation change their scenario in some way. True, it’s not an optimal network but it is my go-to channel in off-hours. But that’s just one tiny aspect in this entire deal.

For now, despite the deal being put together, there is still just one tiny hurdle to defeat for Comcast, and that’s the FCC approval for this entire deal.

There are many critics to this deal and many wonder if the FCC will actually let this deal finalize. That, is something we will find out in time.  I’m on the bubble as to whether this deal should go through.  It could do the consumer good,  or we could lose big time to the momentum of making money in the business of entertainment.

I’d love to hear what Screen Rant readers feel about this deal.

References:  TV Guide Magazine, Business Week (1) (2), Boston.com, NBC-Uni, Wikipedia (1) (2), CNET, TV Everywhere, Wired

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14 Comments

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  1. WHAT A MESS!!

    First: Their’s the FCC impending 2010 Quadrennial Review.
    People will be up in arms and another debacle hearing like this one; http://www.savetheinternet.com/archive/2008/02/25/comcast-blocking-first-the-internet-now-the-public/

    Second: Their’s the Justice department that will want to
    put its two cents in. Much wrangling how Time Inc. is the same kind of structure.

    Third: Some of Congress is quaking and will quake no doubt taking up valuable time.

    Fourth: It’ll all happen because some powerful people will get filthier rich and secret deals will be made behind closed doors.

    Fifth: 10-20,000 jobs will be lost when the whole conglomeration starts consolidation and reengineering.

    Sixth: College tuition will take a jump as the newly unemployed scramble to Tailor themselves to new job realities.

    Seventh: Consumer backlash will grow as pieces of the infrastructure that once existed are sold, rolled, or stuck in mold to fit into a smaller more competitive unit. Higher entertainment and telecom bills to come.

    Eight: One or two of the more recognizable pieces of the puzzle will be let go, spun off, disentangled as the new conglomerate steadily loses money from market backlash.

    Nine: The secret deals made with the government back in step four will come due and a break will occur dividing both Time and Comcast into smaller chunks.

    Ten: Landscape will seek a renewed level as chunks struggle to find new business.

  2. Naw nothing to worry about,,,
    ^
    A single day after the two media giants announced their deal, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts proudly weighed in to strongly support the Senate Democrats’ health care reform bill.
    ^
    Now Comcast is a big company, with about 100,000 employees.  I’m sure health care costs have a big impact on their bottom line.  But the bottom line impact on Roberts’ personal net worth will be much greater if the federal government, with a big say-so from the US Senate, approves the $13 billion deal. So Roberts’ heartfelt letter to the president in support of the Democrats’ singular policy issue was the first action he took in what is expected to be a twelve-month regulatory review process. 
    This is an action with absolutely no relevance to the vast intricacies of the merger, but a move that sets a new standard for blatant pandering aimed at a group of people for whom pandering is the new standard operating procedure. ^
    Nothing to see here, move along, move along,,, ;-)

  3. Um, Yeah, you SHOULD be worried as COMCAST as a Business has been notorious for their underwhelming customer support shows their attitude toward those who use their services. I wouldn’t be surprised if this merger goes through to see that certain cable channels suddenly become a “package” requiring an extra fee on other non-comcast systems. From their disengenuous commercials to hock their wares, their limiting speeds in particular areas and all the rest, this merger should be opposed by anyone who enjoys NBC entertainment.

  4. Comcast Acquires White House Press Office for $1.2 Billion

    http://theeggplantpost.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/comcast-acquires-white-house-press-office-for-1-2-billion/

  5. the old man The was the best slippery slope argument I’ve ever seen… Ridiculous, but stillt he best one I’ve ever seen.

    I love how so many people make a bigger deal out of it than it really is. The best comment about this deal so far is from T simply because he was talking about their customer service.

  6. I am a comcast employee. I have also been a comcast customer for years. First off this merger is only going to bring good things to come for consumers. We are an ever expanding company in an attempt to bring the most quality service to our customers. As I am sure most of you know the telecommunications industry is a very competive industry. Our competitors have moved full head of steam towards the wireless route. I believe my company has decided to go a different route with there growth. Comcast gets a bad rep for being such a big company, but to be such a big company we must be doing something right. We already provide content same day as dvd and theatrical release(usually Indie films. We will have an online accessable Video On Demand by the end of the first quarter of 2010. Now through multiple different mediums we will be able to provide you with all your NBC/Universal favorites quickly and reliably with our cable and internet services.

  7. programming choices….hmmm.. At least this did not happen with a Bush in charge.

  8. Regardless of how any of us choose to see or interpret this potential situation, this is business, as it is. Business is about relationships and associations, so yea, sure, scenarios that look like “secret deals” sure can ruffle feathers.

    Regardless of the business, it’s an inevitable progression of what our entertainment industry is quietly headed towards.

    If this kind of situation makes it easier for movies to open in movie theaters AND on my TV / Computer on the same day, I have a hard time worrying about this.

    That is, unless of course Fear.net gets squashed… then I might grumble!

    Comcast CSR: Thanks for chiming in!

  9. I don’t support big congoms that pander to obama and support socialist heathcare. ^
    Keep sending those letters comcast I’ll keep throwing them away for ya,,, ;-)

  10. @Tim

    Yes, much better that it happen under an administration that is trying its damndest to take over private enterprise while simultaneously bankrupting the country for generations to come.

    Vic

  11. Maybe they can get that arse Olberman off the air.

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