Months ago, when NBC was deciding to move The Tonight Show back to New York, part of the NBCUniversal-think was that it would allow the company to streamline booking of talent across its many talk-show platforms based in New York – also including Late Night, Today, Saturday Night Live, Meredith Vieira’s new show, Watch What Happens Live, Access Hollywood, E! News, etc. Last month, NBC Broadcast chairman Ted Harbert told Deadline that NBCU was working to streamline guest booking across its various celebrity-centric New York-based shows, including the Jimmy Fallon-hosted Tonight. The ability to orchestrate an “event” across multiple programs for a celeb with something to plug would give Tonight a big booking edge over its late-night competition, for example.
Related: ‘Tonight’s Move To NY May Give NBC More Clout, But Will Digital Make Booking War Obsolete?
Today, less than three weeks before Tonight makes the move, NBCU announced it had promoted Kathy Kelly-Brown to the newly created post of SVP Global Talent Booking, where she will develop “strategic, customized publicity opportunities incorporating the many powerful brands” in the NBCU portfolio. Kelly-Brown will collaborate with producers, bookers and talent execs to “assemble comprehensive publicity opportunities for projects such as upcoming film and television premieres, album releases and book launches.” She will report to NBCU EVP Adam Miller. Read More »
Execs put the Street on notice that Universal‘s movie profits may take a hit this year, but for what they see as a good cause: They expect healthy returns in 2015 from films including Jurassic World (aka Jurassic Park 4), Fast & Furious 7, The Minions (an animated spinoff of the Despicable Me franchise) and Fifty Shades Of Grey. “It’s a little bit of an up-and-down business,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a conference call with analysts to discuss this morning’s Q4 earnings report. NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke assured them, though, that “we have a very strong year” planned for 2015 and “we’re incurring that investment [in 2014] as we gear up.” CFO Michael Angelakis also said that the productions will “absorb some cash,” but he characterized the increased spending as a kind of normalization, noting that last year Comcast went “lighter on the production spend for the 2014 slate.” The company spent $1.16B on capital expenditures for all of NBCU last year — up $397M from 2012 — with much of it going to Harry Potter and Transformers theme park attractions. It expects the level for NBCU to remain “relatively flat” in 2014, with continuing theme park investments.
Related: Comcast Lifts Stock Buyback And Dividend As Q4 Earnings Miss Analyst Expectations Read More »
The No. 1 cable operator and owner of NBCUniversal says this morning that it will increase its dividend by 15.4% to 90 cents a share annualized beginning in April, and will boost the share repurchase plan to $7.5B, including $3B in 2014. That news, plus some improving metrics from its cable systems, should impress investors looking at the company’s mixed — although mostly robust — report for Q4. Comcast ended up with net income of nearly $2B, +8.9% vs the period in 2012, on revenues of $16.9B, +6.2%. The net income attributable to Comcast (remember: in 2012 GE still owned 49% of NBCU) was $1.9B, +26%. The revenue figure beat the Street’s consensus forecast for $16.6B. But adjusted earnings at 66 cents a share fell short of projections for 68 cents. NBCUniversal was surprisingly strong with $1.3B in operating cash flow (+14.3%) on revenues of $6.5B (+7.5%). Filmed Entertainment may be the biggest shock with home video sales of Despicable Me 2 outweighing the downturn in Universal Studios‘ box office sales. The film unit ended up with cash flow of $192M (+127.4%) on revenues of $1.4B (+4.9%). The NBC Broadcast TV unit also exceeded forecasts with cash flow of $140M (+54.8%) on revnues of $2.2B (+11.5%). Comcast attributes that to the 8.3% increase in ad revenues plus growing retransmission consent fees and revenue from content licensing which it says reflects “the timing of content availability.” But cable networks — usually the standout performer — may disappoint with cash flow of $929M (+3.8%) on revenues of $2.3B (+5.3%). While ad sales rose 4.3% and fees from pay TV distributors increased 7.8%, the operation saw a 4.6% drop in content licensing and reports rising costs for new shows, sports rights, and marketing expenses. Meanwhile theme parks turned in predictably solid numbers with cash flow of $257M (+4.6%) on revenues of $566M (+8.8%). CEO Brian Roberts had earlier flagged the big news at his main business — cable systems. Video subscriptions increased by 43,000 to 21.7M, ending a 26 quarter stretch of downturns. “As we begin 2014, we remain excited about our businesses and intend to continue to prudently invest to enhance our strategic differentiation and to drive growth,” he says.
Related: Comcast: Film Spending Will Rise In 2014 Ahead Of 2015 Sequels
Here’s how today’s reported results look: Read More »
NBCUniversal International CFO Ronan Conn is moving over to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, where he will replace exiting EVP/CFO Sean Gamble. Conn, a nine-year Uni veteran, has served as VP, Finance for Universal Pictures International and became CFO … Read More »
4TH UPDATE, 10:05 PM: Each side is — gasp! — blaming the other for the blackout. Now DirecTV has issued a statement of its own regarding the Weather Channel. It reads in part: “Consumers understand there are now a variety of other ways to get weather coverage, free of reality show clutter, and that The Weather Channel does not have an exclusive on weather coverage – the weather belongs to everyone.” (The full statement is below.)
Related: Weather Channel Tells TV Critics That DirecTV Is Putting Americans At Risk; Critics Dubious
3RD UPDATE, 9:21 PM: Here we go again. In the latest showdown between a pay TV company and a content provider, the Weather Channel is no longer available on DirecTV as of midnight Eastern. The parties were unable to reach a carriage deal. DirecTV customers who tune to the familiar channel 361 are getting the feed from a small operation called WeatherNation, which the satcaster had snuck onto channel 361 before year’s end. “We offered DirecTV the best rate for our programming, and I am shocked they have put corporate profits ahead of keeping a trusted channel that subscribers rely on every day,” David Kenny, chairman and CEO of The Weather Company, said in a statement tonight. “We are not looking for a large fee increase. We are simply looking for a fair deal. …” (Read the company’s full statement below.)
During the Weather Channel’s crowded session at the TCA Press Tour this morning, its president David Clark and Sam Campion — recently poached from Good Morning America — toed the company line that the satcaster not carrying their channel amounts to a public safety issue. Their statements echoed a release from the Weather Channel late Friday that urged DirecTV subscribers to call their congressmen to voice concern about losing the service. The satellite TV giant responded with a release of its own saying it had received numerous complaints about the Weather Channel’s growing slate of reality programming.
The Weather Channel-DirecTV action comes four months after Time Warner Cable and CBS settled their dispute that had resulted in a monthlong blackout of CBS and Showtime channels for TWC customers. Read More »
The stock touched a new all-time high and is up 3.7% this afternoon after Brian Roberts said that, after 26 straight quarters of losing video subscribers, “I’m pleased to tell you that we modestly grew customers” in Q4. “It’s … Read More »
The rumored tie-in between NBCUniversal and former AllThingsD co-executive editors Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg is now a reality. NBCUniversal News Group tonight announced a strategic investment and content partnership with Revere Digital, the new technology-focused media company launched by Swisher and Mossberg as their contract with News Corp. and its Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal businesses ended December 31. The announced was made at the very moment Revere’s new website, Re/code, went live at midnight ET on January 2. “Kara and Walt are two of the most knowledgeable, well-connected and respected technology journalists working today. They built an incredible brand and business with ‘AllThingsD,’ and we are very excited about partnering with them in this new venture and deepening our engagement in this rapidly changing technology market,” said Patricia Fili-Krushel, Chairman, NBCUniversal News Group. Under the partnership, Revere’s breaking news and analysis stories will run simultaneously across NBCUniversal News Group’s multiple media platforms, and Swisher, Mossberg and other Revere journalists will appear on-air across all of the News Group properties including CNBC, MSNBC, Today , and Nightly News With Brian Williams. Additionally, CNBC will become Revere’s media partner for its global conferences.
Related: AllThingsD Founders Announce New Site: Re/Code
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This would confirm the rumor that AllThingsD co-executive editors Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher will have a landing spot at the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal when their current contract with News Corp and its Dow Jones and Wall Street Journal … Read More »
Less than three weeks after veteran USA Network exec Bill McGoldrick took over as head of development at NBCU sibling Syfy comes word that the network and Universal are refocusing Syfy Films. SVP Production Gregory Noveck’s … Read More »
A perfect media company “would look a lot like NBCUniversal,” the operation’s chief told analysts this morning in a conference call to discuss Q3 earnings. He turned cheerleader in response to a question about whether parent company Comcast would consider buying other assets to fill out its entertainment portfolio. And it isn’t, at least not as of today. “We see so much organic growth” from the existing properties, Steve Burke said. Specifically, “we’ve grown increasingly bullish about the theme park business,” he added, with Phase 2 of its Harry Potter attraction proceeding in Orlando and other ambitious efforts to develop tie-ins with Despicable Me. “We’re making these investments because we really like the business,” Burke said. Comcast execs added little new information about developments on other fronts. On the possibility of adding a Netflix app to the company’s set top boxes, Comcast Cable chief Neil Smit says: “There’s nothing to report. … It’s incredible to me the amount of press coverage this has received.” He noted, though, that the company has apps for Facebook and Pandora. And CEO Brian Roberts did a soft sell for the new initiative with Twitter to introduce a “See It” button on the social media platform that would act as a remote control to bring users directly to certain TV shows. “We want to promote live television,” he said. “Whether that will move ratings, I don’t know.”
Related: Comcast Financials Mixed In Q3 With Help From ‘Despicable Me 2′
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The animation hit helped to offset some of the expected weakness at NBC‘s broadcasting unit, which faced tough comparisons with last year when it had the London Olympics. All told, net income attributable to Comcast came in at $1.73B, -18% vs last year’s Q3, on revenues of $16.15B, -2.4%. The top-line figure is lower than the $16.25B analysts had expected. But earnings at 65 cents a share beat forecasts for 61 cents. NBCUniversal was a mixed bag with revenues falling 14.2% to $5.85B and operating cash flow +9.6% to $1.25B — though the company says revenues would have been +3.9% if you factor out the contributions from last year’s Olympics. The cable networks showed 4.0% revenue growth to $2.24B, helped by a 5.4% increase in affiliate fees and 4.6% increase in ad sales — but a 6.5% drop in content licensing. NBC broadcasting needed more explaining with revenues -41.1% to $1.64B. The loss of the $1.2B from the Olympics overshadowed a 2.6% increase in retransmission consent fees and an equal increase in ad revenue. The filmed entertainment unit had a simpler story with revenues +3.3% to $1.4B — but operating cash flow +164.1% to $189M. Despicable Me 2 drove the results, though it was offset somewhat by lower home entertainment results as the studio had fewer releases this quarter than it had last year.
Related: Steve Burke: NBCU Not Looking At Acquisitions As It Anticipates Growth
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Steve Eisenhardt has been named SVP Labor Relations at NBCUniversal with his appointment effective November 18, about two weeks after the DGA and the the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers head to the bargaining table. … Read More »
NBCUniversal’s Symphony Initiative, of which we’ve heard so much of late, will reach a deafening crescendo on October 29, when the networks of NBCU will do its best to make sure you see a new promo for … Read More »
NBCUniversal and Comcast have named Maggie McLean Suniewick their SVP Strategic Integration. She will spearhead NBCUniversal’s key “Symphony” initiatives across the company’s properties and with Comcast Corp, which owns NBCU. By “Symphony,” Comcast is referring to the companwide marketing initiative to promote upcoming NBCU programming, movies and events, including the Olympics, as well as Comcast’s products and services, across the portfolio to drive awareness and help connect with consumers. In addition, Symphony projects include major strategic initiatives like the conglom’s TV Everywhere efforts. Suniewick will report to NBCU CEO Steve Burke and Neil Smit, President and CEO of Comcast Cable and EVP of Comcast Corp. From today’s announcement: Read More »
Bet you can guess which two Esquire magazine franchises have been ordered as specials by NBCU’s Esquire Network. If you guessed the franchises are: women, and bars — you’re right! Women We Love is an hour-long “celebration of some of the most captivating, impressive and alluring women from entertainment, sports, pop culture and more.” And we’re guessing you’ve already figured out it’s going to coincide with the mag’s annual “Sexiest Woman Alive” issue in November in which Scarlett Johansson is, for a second time, named SWA — because Esquire is apparently running out of them. In the magazine, Johansson says, sexily, “You know, I gotta hustle…I’m a 28-year-old woman in the movie business, right? Pretty soon the roles you’re offered all become mothers. Then they just sort of stop.” In the cable TV special, “fascinating women who inspire us with their beauty, intelligence, style and passions” will “share their thoughts on everything that inspires and interests them, from their work to travel, fashion, humor and relationships.” Women We Love will premiere Tuesday, November 19 at 8 PM ET, produced by Wilshire Studios with Jennifer Lane serving as executive producer. Read More »
Emilio Romano: the latest to pass through the NBCUniversal revolving door. Romano, president of NBCU’s Spanish-language Telemundo operations, had overseen Telemundo network, its O&O stations, international operations, and mun2, and production facilities for two years. His exit was announced this morning by Joe Uva, NBCU’s chairman of Hispanic enterprises and content since February, when Lauren Zalaznick gave up oversight of the network as part of the crowning of Bonnie Hammer as queen of the NBCU Cable kingdom. Zalaznick, who’d been moved over to ditigal “monetization” and emerging technology, resigned last month after 12 years with the company.
“I am writing to you today to let you know about an important management change. After a successful two years, Emilio Romano has decided to leave the company,” Uva said this morning in a memo to staff: Read More »
Comcast has purchased 10 Universal City Plaza, the 35-story building that sits adjacent to the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park and the headquarters of Universal Pictures. “NBCUniversal continues to explore real estate opportunities as they arise near its … Read More »
Former NBCUniversal attorneys John Berlinski and Mansi Shah have switched sides to form a new entertainment litigation practice at national firm Kasowitz, … Read More »
The writing had been on the wall since the February reorganization at NBCUniversal when the company merged the cable network portfolios of chairmen Bonnie Hammer and Lauren Zalaznick under Hammer. In the restructuring, Lauren Zalaznick took on a new role as EVP NBCUniversal, “focusing on innovation, digital, monetization and emerging technology across the company.” Steve Burke just announced Zalaznick’s exit from the company after a 12-year tenure. Like Hammer, Zalaznick was a rising star at NBC Universal, originally making her mark running Trio and then growing fledgeling Bravo into a formidable asset. After the Comcast merger, she added to her purview cable network Style, Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo and digital properties — including red-hot Fandango, which doubled its market share on her watch. (Telemundo has handed over to Joe Uva in February, while Hammer recently dropped the Style brand, transforming the network into Esquire.) While I hear Zalaznick was originally intrigued by her new role, she became itchy to return to an executive position where she runs a business vs. the more of a “suit” advisory post she was in. About three weeks ago, she approached NBCU CEO Steve Burke about transitioning out, and the plan was put into motion. Zalaznick is expected to return to the executive ranks, but maybe not at a traditional TV company. She has been interested in the junction between content and technology and has been advising and investing in several startups in that area. Read Burke’s memo — which also lays out the succession plan, with Cesar Conde taking on the bulk of Zalaznick’s reports — after the jump:
Related: Univision’s Cesar Conde Joins NBCUniversal As EVP
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