Cable TV giant Comcast Corp. finally closed on its deal to take a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal at the end of January. The media unit's employees were given a pep talk, some shares in Comcast and told the new logo -- NBCUniversal -- will lack a space between "NBC" and "Universal."
So with the transaction under its belt after a yearlong regulatory review, the division's CEO, Steve Burke, was asked on a conference call with analysts what priorities he has set for the company. He said change would take years, but that turning around fourth-ranked broadcaster NBC was top of mind, and spoke of making investments in it rather than cost cuts. He also mentioned its Spanish-language sister network, Telemundo, and the array of pay TV channels that include Bravo, CNBC, USA and E!
QUESTION: On NBC Universal, could you highlight the top goals or priorities over the next one or two years, and are there any parts of the business that you'd like to add to? For example, international is an area that doesn't seem to be particularly strong right now.
RESPONSE (Burke): One of the advantages of waiting 13 or 14 months to get a deal closed due to regulatory approval is you get a chance to really get to know the assets, really get to know the people, and get a chance to create a set of goals and plans and priorities for the future. We have a lot of big goals for NBC Universal. I would start with the fact that 80 percent of the (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization), 80 percent of the value are the cable channels. The cable channels are in fantastic shape, have been growing double digits. There you just want to make sure that we continue to make the right investments and continue the growth. The biggest opportunity I think over the next few years and we certainly don't expect to see anything in the next year, but if you go out three, four, five years, is the NBC network, where we have some real strength in NBC News and some real weakness with prime time. And we think we can make progress, and we're doing a variety of things, putting a variety of things in place to get that progress. But I don't think we're going to see anything for a while. And then, very excited about opportunities like Telemundo. You mention international. We think international is a real opportunity. So we think the assets are fantastic, and the real core of the assets, the cable channels, are in great shape. We want to continue to keep that going. But we're going to be opportunistic in terms of the places where we can invest and grow, like international, like Telemundo, like the NBC network as well.