NBCU CEO Touts MSNBC, Says "We Make Far Less Money Than We Should"

Stephen B. Burke - Publicity - H 2018
Lisa Berg/NBC

"CNN makes well north of $1 billion a year, and we make 40 percent of that," Steve Burke said.

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke touted a lot of his company's businesses while speaking to Wall Street on Wednesday, but said he is "particularly excited" about MSNBC, though he just wants it to make more money.

"We make far less money than we should," he added. "CNN makes well north of $1 billion a year, and we make 40 percent of that. We should make more, and there's lots of opportunity there," the exec said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. 

On the broadcast side of NBCU, Burke noted that even with all of the disruption in television owed to digital technology, NBC and its three competitors are collectively making more money today than they were five years ago. Sports is one reason.

The CEO said that the recent Super Bowl, in connection with the other shows on that night, accounted for $100 million for NBC. "It might have been the most profitable night in the history of television for any channel," he said.

Burke said it doesn't bother him that 21st Century Fox outbid NBC for Thursday Night Football because "we lost a lot of money — well over $100 million" when the network was paying $45 million per game for that package. Sunday Night Football is another matter, as it has been very profitable for NBC, he said.

Ratings may have been down, but Burke was very satisfied with the Olympics, he said, noting that NBC had 40 million unique users of Olympics programming on Snapchat, which partnered with NBC for the multiday event.

Burke also made the case for Comcast, NBCU's parent company, bidding $31 billion to acquire British satellite broadcaster Sky, which Fox, a minority owner, is trying to purchase, as is Disney through its proposed acquisition of most of Fox.

He noted Comcast shares fell on the news of Tuesday's bid, but said he ran into the same skepticism when Comcast bought NBCU years earlier.

Sky has 23 million subscribers in Europe and Burke said that, while he doesn't wake up thinking, "We've got to fix something," he does like the idea of a bigger presence outside of the U.S., which is why Comcast recently considered acquiring Fox before the Rupert Murdoch-controlled company settled on its Disney deal.