NBC Universal awash in red ink

Profit held up well despite Q2 revenue dip

Revenue at NBC Universal took a dive in the second quarter, but profit held up well compared with the other divisions at General Electric, the media conglomerate's parent company.

While GE as a whole reported that second-quarter profit plunged 49% to $2.6 billion, NBC Uni showed a slightly more modest 41% decline to $539 million. Furthermore, GE's revenue dropped 17% to $39.1 billion, while at NBC Uni it was down only 8% to $3.6 billion.

NBC Uni attributed much of its revenue drop to a $95 million write-down of its majority stake in Ion Media Networks and last year's one-time gain of $113 million for the $496 million sale of the Sundance Channel to Cablevision's Rainbow Media.

Because of Ion and Sundance, GE CFO Keith Sherin called NBC Uni's performance "not as negative as it looks."

Of GE's five segments, NBC Uni showed the second-biggest decline in profit behind the Capital Finance unit, which registered an 80% drop. But it fared second best on the revenue front, behind Energy Infrastructure, which showed a 1% decline.

GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, though, lowered full-year profit guidance at NBC Uni, when combined with Energy Infrastructure and Technology Infrastructure, from a year-over-year 5% gain to flat.

"The markets are tougher, but I think the teams are executing very well," Immelt said.

Despite a strong boxoffice showing from "Fast & Furious," the movie studio suffered from a lack of new DVD releases and the dismal performance of the Will Ferrell vehicle "Land of the Lost."

"Film did have a tough quarter," Sherin said.

On the television side, NBC Uni boasted that MSNBC beat Time Warner's CNN during the quarter in total viewers for the first time.

Sherin told analysts, though, that upfront sales have been "very slow" and that NBC will "retain more inventory" than is typical.