Comcast CFO Warns of More Exec Changes at NBCUni

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Speaking days after Dick Ebersol announced his departure, Michael Angelakis lauds the management team and says the turnover at NBC "is very much expected," but adds that things are still "a bit of a work in progress."

NEW YORK - Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis on Tuesday touted NBCUniversal's cable networks as a "stellar" business that, he said, will bring in "well over" $3 billion in operating cash flow this year. And he lauded the entertainment company's management team despite some NBC turnover since its acquisition by Comcast. While that turnover doesn't worry him, some additional executive changes may still have to happen, he signaled.

Speaking here at the Barclays Capital 2011 Global Communications, Media and Technology Conference in a session available via Webcast, Angelakis lauded a "really solid" and "pretty cohesive" management team t NBCUni.

Asked, without specific names being mentioned, if early NBC management turnover - such as last week's news of the departure of NBC Sports head Dick Ebersol - was higher than expected, Angelakis said: "The turnover we see at NBC is very much expected from our side." He said the company is "not really worried about it."

He also acknowledged that not all the right people may be in place for all the different areas yet. "I think that is a bit of a work in [progress]," he said. "We are still working through that." Deals typically tend to lead to at least some departures of top executives.

In an encouraging development, NBCUni has also brought in "absolutely terrific" new people who seem to fit in well, he highlighted. "They have been both culturally and operationally, I think, doing a great job," Angelakis added.

The Comcast CFO on Tuesday also defended NBCUni's recent announcement that it would spend an additional $200 million on programming at NBC this year and $100 million at the company's cable networks.

"The market overreacted to that particular comment," he argued, calling the amount "just not that material" and arguing that NBC has more upside than downside. "We think if we are able to turn around the network, there is enormous upside from a profitability standpoint," Angelakis said. "And that network is a weak fourth player, and our goal is to make sure that we can turn that around."

Much of the spending will focus on creating new 10 o'clock shows after Jay Leno's return to late night last year, he reiterated.
He said he hopes that NBC will over the next couple of years see "operational and financial progress."

Overall, nearly four months into the NBCUni deal, things are "working quite nicely so far," and 49 percent shareholder General Electric has been "a terrific partner," according to Angelakis.

Reiterating recent comments from other top executives that the ratings success of NBC show The Voice is an early example of synergy between NBCUni and Comcast, Angelakis said the latter promoted the show and is giving Comcast Cable customers a chance to go to its finale. But Angelakis said proof of Comcast's help is that the show in Comcast Cable markets outperformed its viewership in non-Comcast markets by more than 40 percent.
Will NBCUni buy out Blackstone Group's 50 percent stake in the Universal Orlando theme park venture? NBCUniversal has until June 12 to make a decision as it has the right of first refusal, and Angelakis said Tuesday that a decision will come in the next few weeks.

The theme parks business is "good," new King Kong and Harry Potter attractions are "absolute home runs," the unit is well managed and "very profitable," he said.

Ahead of next summer's Olympics TV rights auction, Angelakis also got a question about NBCUni's approach to sports rights acquisitions.

"Sports are important to the extent that we can make money and build value," he reiterated comments from NBCUni CEO Steve Burke. "We are going to be very financially disciplined on it."

He cited the recent Pac 12 rights negotiations as an example. "Did we pencil out what we thought was the right number, [that] was going to build value for the organization and make money? Absolutely," Angelakis said. "Did we lose? So be it. We're not that emotional about it."


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