Incoming NBCU CEO Steve Burke: We Are 'In It to Win It'
Deal gives NBCU a corporate overlord in the same business. 'Being owned by GE was like being a flea on an elephant's ass,' says Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer.
Comcast's Steve Burke, incoming CEO of NBC Universal, told employees gathered for a Town Hall at NBC's New York headquarters at 30 Rock – as well as via satellite from Los Angeles, London, Miami and Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia – that they should all be "in it to win it."
"With this set of assets," said Burke, "there's no reason why we can't set the bar very high. Whatever we do, we should be in it to win it."
The meeting christens the newly merged company after a 13-month federal review process. It also gives NBC Universal a corporate overlord in the same business, unlike former owner General Electric. It was a point that Ron Meyer, president and COO of Universal Studios, reiterated by colorfully noting that "being owned by GE was like being a flea on an elephant's ass." (The remark came in the room but off camera and not during Meyer's remark for the town hall.)
NBC News anchor Brian Williams was on hand in New York to interview Burke and Comcast Corporation CEO Brian Roberts, who was in Los Angeles. Ralph Roberts, Brian Roberts' 90-year-old father and the co-founder of Comcast, was also at 30 Rock. At one point Williams joked that such productions are "all about bad audio and satellite delays. It's actually very fun."
Brian Roberts confessed that he was a bit "overwhelmed" now that the merger was at long last complete adding that he took the famed 30 Rock tour – as well as the Universal Studios tour – and professed to be "surprised at how similar" the two companies actually are.
Roberts was also interviewed at Universal headquarters by the industrious Ryan Seacrest, a valuable Comcast personality with multiple shows on E! During that exchange, Roberts admitted that the day gave him "goose bumps." He also sung the praises of NBC Universal executives including Meyer and NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol, adding that it was advantageous to have "experts" heading so many divisions.
NBCU employees arriving at work Thursday were greeted with purple boxes on their desks which contained a welcome letter from Burke and Roberts as well as a "Big Idea Book" – a journal of sorts – where employees can record their own "ideas." The gift-box also included passes for four to Universal Studios and a certificate entitling employees to 25 shares of Comcast Corp. stock.
Because of limited space at the 30 Rock studio, seats were awarded via an online lottery where employees were asked which member of the new management team they'd like to dine with and why. (The dinner question was optional.)
In Los Angeles, Meyer expressed confidence that "the Comcast culture and the combination of our businesses will make us unquestionably one of the greatest entertainment companies in the world. I personally couldn't be more optimistic regarding our future."
In Philadelphia, Michael Angelakis, CFO of Comcast Corp., noted that "marriages take work." But he added, "This company is going to be so well-positioned to lead, influence and benefit from all the changes."
Williams, in what appeared to be an attempt to burst the corporate happy talk bubble, joked that he and Burke bonded over their mutual affection for Jersey Shore. Burke clarified that they both have homes on the Jersey Shore. (Williams grew up in Middletown and Burke has a house in Mantoloking.)
Williams inquired about the new peacock-less NBC Universal logo. The peacock has been a staple at the network since 1956. Burke explained that the new "cleaner" logo was for corporate use and that the peacock would continue to be part of on-air and consumer facing marketing.
Roberts closed the meeting by laying out the combined companies' profitability mandate tempered by the paternalist corporate culture that is a hallmark Comcast.
"We are in business for profit of course and ratings..., but we can and we will stand for so much more than that," he said. "And as one new dynamic company we have an even greater opportunity to make an impact on our society and the world. I take this opportunity and responsibility very seriously. We have so much work -- and and I hope a lot of fun -- ahead of us. Not everything we do will be perfect and ... we will make some mistakes. But if we all strive for excellence and always act with integrity, then I believe we will be one of the most special, dynamic and successful companies in the world. For me and I believe my father today is indeed a dream come true. But more importantly I hope it is the beginning of great new dreams for all of us."