NBC Universal: There's drama in primetime

THR's 2008 corporate scorecards

THR rating: 3 out of 5

For the first nine months of 2008, NBC Universal grew its revenue 15% to $12.5 billion and its profit 4% to $2.27 billion, results that compared favorably with the rest of corporate parent General Electric. But then NBC Uni CEO Jeff Zucker began to sound a cautionary note, reining in expectations that Internet advertising would amount to much in 2009 and warning that absent drastic measures, the broadcast TV industry could face the same economic plight confronting automakers and newspapers.

Apparently, those measures include 500 layoffs and cutting back on original programming at NBC, most likely expensive dramas. In a separate move, Peacock brass managed to hold on to late-night leader Jay Leno -- and will offer him to audiences an hour and a half earlier each weeknight.

Given the ratings in 2008, it's a good thing primetime broadcasting is a small portion of NBC Uni's business. Cable is bigger and has performed better; look for suddenly hot MSNBC to continue its assault on CNN in the battle for second place behind Fox News Channel among news cablers.

In 2008, "Mamma Mia!" became the most successful musical film worldwide, and the DVD release is a similar sensation. Even so, Universal has a chance to improve its boxoffice take next year with such releases as "The Wolfman," "State of Play," "Land of the Lost" and "Public Enemies."

Top performers

Films (domestic gross in million)
"Mamma Mia!" ($144)
"The Incredible Hulk" (Marvel, $135)
"Wanted" ($134)

"Mamma Mia!
"American Gangster"
"The Incredible Hulk"

"NBC Sunday Night Football"
"America's Got Talent"
"America's Got Talent" (Wed.)

Click for scorecards: Time Warner | News Corp. | Viacom | CBS Corp. | Disney | Sony | NBC Universal