Confab to focus on Comcast, NBC Uni deal

UBS attendees also likely to discuss ad outlook, AOL spinoff

NEW YORK -- The outlook for the advertising market amid a slow economic recovery and M&A activity, including Comcast's play for a 51% stake in NBC Universal, are expected to be key focus areas at the last big media and entertainment investor conference of 2009 here next week.

The 37th edition of the annual three-day UBS Global Media and Communications Conference kicks off Monday at the Grand Hyatt in midtown Manhattan. As is tradition, industry titans will meet analysts and investors to preview 2010 and review the current year.

Last year, it was hard for CEOs and CFOs to paint rosy pictures amid financial crisis and recession. But now that the U.S. economy has returned to growth in the third quarter, investors will want to hear how 2010 may shape up for ad revenue, profits, sector stocks, which have had a strong year already, and possible mergers and acquisitions.

Speaking of deals, Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker will get a chance to further tout their deal, which will give the cable giant a 51% stake in a new NBC Uni joint venture enlarged with Comcast's content assets, at the UBS gathering.

Next week's planned spinoff of AOL from Time Warner and the indebted MGM, which is considering a sale, are other likely deal-related topics with several MGM contenders, which include Time Warner, News Corp., Sony Corp. and Lionsgate, on the speaker list.

Otherwise, UBS also will feature its traditional ad forecasting panel with prominent prognosticators, but the session this year is expected to be switched from Monday to Tuesday. CEOs will surely also weigh in on ad trends as investors start to turn their attention to the outlook for the new year. If ad trends don't return to growth mode, companies could look to more job and cost cuts to boost profits.

But the tone of ad comments of some entertainment executives, particularly that of CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves and News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, has already taken a turn for the more bullish in recent appearances. Investors at the UBS gathering will listen closely for what notes others in the industry strike now that the final month of 2009 is off to the races.

As in most years, the UBS agenda is full of executives from major media conglomerates and smaller sector players. Big-name speakers this year include Walt Disney president and CEO Bob Iger; Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes; News Corp. president, COO and deputy chairman Chase Carey; Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei; Moonves; and Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman, who is scheduled to be interviewed by none other than former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who is now CEO of his own shingle, the Tornante Co., whose first TV series is "Glenn Martin, DDS" on Viacom's Nick at Nite.