NBC Uni in full throttle


NBC Universal got itself a new leader this year when Jeff Zucker was named president and CEO, and he has been shepherding a turnaround ever since, as corporate parent GE likes to highlight.  GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt this year has touted NBC Uni's growth outlook and firmly stated that a sale of its entertainment unit is not in the works. In a key 2007 digital showdowns, NBC Uni ended a TV show distribution deal with Apple's iTunes and joined Amazon's Unbox. Universal, domestically, passed the $1 billion boxoffice mark Nov. 9, the earliest it has reached that milestone. Cable TV also has been a huge contributor to NBC Uni's bottom line this year, with $2.5 billion in sales translating to $1.2 billion in operating profit.

Summary and outlook: Despite proclamations from Immelt, analysts speculate that a sale of NBC Uni might be in the cards, though not before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing have been milked. Executives have said that the current fourth quarter looks strong, with operating profit at NBC Uni expected to be up as much as 15%. Helping out is CNBC, which is on its way to its most profitable year ever despite late-year competition from the new Fox Business Network. NBC Uni, along with News Corp., launched their Hulu Internet project in October to positive reviews. The company will be busy next year expanding its theme parks with Simpsons and Harry Potter attractions. Stock in General Electric, NBC Uni's parent company, rose 3% this year.

THR rating: $$$ out of 5

Top performers:

The Bourne Ultimatum, Knocked Up, American Gangster
DVDs: The Bourne Ultimatum, Knocked Up, Hot Fuzz
TV shows: NBC Sunday Night Football, Heroes, Deal or No Deal

Rankings: Boxoffice by U.S. gross through Dec. 18; DVDs by total units; TV by total viewers for 2006-07 season

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