NBCUniversal CEO: Broadcast Business Has $1 Billion in Upside


Steve Burke says NBC will start to get retrans dollars, the company's TV stations could make $450 million this year, and its cable channels have big affiliate fee and ad upside.

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said Thursday that a year and a half after Comcast acquired a majority stake in the company, the entertainment conglomerate remains ahead of the cable giant's expectations.

Speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2012 Media, Communications & Entertainment conference in Los Angeles in a session that was webcast, Burke said, "I think we are ahead of where we thought we would be." But there is still a lot of upside, he noted. Cable giant Comcast last year acquired a 51 percent stake in the entertainment conglomerate, in which General Electric continues to own the rest.

His team's No. 1 priority remains NBC. Other broadcast networks make $700 million-$1.5 billion more operating cash flow per year than NBC, he said. "We need to make better shows. We need to rebuild NBC brick by brick," said Burke. "Broadcast is a tremendous opportunity," with $1 billion in potential upside. 

He added that the company's broadcast TV stations at some point fell to making "less than $150 million." This year, they should make $450 million, he said, citing political ads and the benefit of syndicated shows like Steve Harvey.

Burke also pointed out that NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt is rolling out "his first fall of development" with his people. 

The company changed from a focus on quarterly to long-term results and a focus on long-term growth of operating cash flow, he said.

Burke also cited upside in affiliate fees for cable networks and Telemundo. USA is tops in the ratings but gets affiliate fees "substantially lower" than the likes of TBS and TNT, he said. And ad rates in some cases are 25 percent-30 percent lower.

The $3.3 billion in operating cash flow from cable networks could see significant growth if affiliate fees rise. And with about 25 percent of carriage deals coming up this year, broadcast retrans money also will start to flow in and should reach levels of competitors, he said. Sometime in 2015, parity could be reached, he said. "NBC was a little bit behind," he said.

Burke also confirmed that NBCUniversal broke even on the London Olympics.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com

Twitter: @georgszalai


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