NBC Uni outperforms financial trends

Unit bests parent GE; revenue up 10% for full year

NEW YORK -- NBC Universal outperformed fourth-quarter and 2008 financial trends at parent GE and key other units.

GE on Friday reported that its fourth-quarter profit tumbled 25% for all its business segments, or 44% when also including non-operating results, while NBC Uni recorded a 6% profit decline to $865 million.

For the full year, profitability at the entertainment arm rose 1% to $3.13 billion, compared with a GE-wide decline of 9% for all segments, or 18% for continuing operations when including non-operating items.

Revenue at NBC Uni fell 3% in the latest quarter to $4.43 billion, but rose 10% to $16.97 billion for the full year. At GE overall, revenue fell 5% for the quarter and rose 6% for 2008.

"In a very tough environment, we delivered fourth quarter business results in line with expectations we provided in December," chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said, but warned: "We expect 2009 to be extremely difficult."

GE CFO Keith Sherin said NBC Uni's fourth-quarter results were in line with expectations, with recent business trends continuing.

"Cable had another great quarter," he said. "It's strong everywhere." He lauded USA, Bravo, SciFi, CNBC and MSNBC for strong ratings gains in the quarter, but said broadcast profit fell 50% due to a "significant downturn in stations" as the local advertising market continues to struggle.

The TV studio remains a key profit driver, and NBC News remains a strong no. 1 though, Sherin highlighted. And he said "we're excited about the changing broadcast model," highlighting the planned 10pm show with Jay Leno.

NBC Uni's film operations had strong DVD sales thanks to such titles as "Mamma Mia!" while its theme parks saw mixed attendance trends.

On the digital side, Sherin lauded Hulu as "a real success," but was the latest in the industry to say that the recession is hitting Internet ads.

GE last month projected that its infrastructure and NBC Uni units would see their combined profit stay flat or grow up to 5% in 2009.