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NBCU Says Its Strong Upfront Ad Sales Cut Pricing Gap With Competition

NBCU Says Its Strong Upfront Ad Sales Cut Pricing Gap With CompetitionNBC and cable networks led by USA “were trading at a 20% discount to our competition” in the cost-per-viewer of ad sales before the recent upfront market, NBCU chief Steve Burke told analysts this morning. “We’re now at about a 10% discount.” Comcast‘s entertainment arm says it bucked a trend in the upfront — seen as generally down 5% vs last year — as it benefits from the growing popularity of its shows, and a decision to sell broadcast and cable ad inventory together. “If the industry was down 5% and we were up 10%, that’s a 15% difference vs what we would have done” if NBCU had sold broadcast and cable separately. “It’s a swing of $750M” that will go “a long way toward closing monetization gap.”
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Comcast Expects NBC To Catch Up To Rivals In Upfront Ad Market

By | Tuesday April 22, 2014 @ 6:36am PDT

Steve Burke“Monetization gap” is the clunky term NBCU chief Steve Burke frequently uses when he laments the low ad rates his company commands after years of flailing in the TV ratings wars. But with NBC poised to end the prime time season No. 1 in its target 18-to-49 demo, he tells analysts today that he’s going into the upfront sales market “with our best position in a decade” and “it’s going to be worth a lot.” He knows better than to offer specific numbers, but notes that “we can’t find any network that’s swung as much in a year.” CFO Michael Angelakis also said that this will be “a very meaningful correction year.” This was one reason CEO Brian Roberts says NBCU “has real momentum and we believe this is sustainable throughout 2014.”
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Comcast’s Brian Roberts Made $31.4M In 2013, +7.7%

By | Friday April 11, 2014 @ 2:39pm PDT

The company that owns the largest collection of cable systems plus NBCUniversal has about 3.6 times the market value of CBS — yet CEO Brian Roberts made less than half of what CBS paid Les Moonves in 2013?Brian Roberts No need to shed any tears: After all, Roberts’ family controls Comcast, and it gave him his best pay day in years for a period when the stock value appreciated 39.1%. COMCASTThe package consists of $2.8M salary, $5.3M stock awards, $5.3M option awards, $9.2M in non-equity incentives, $5.1M change in pension value and $3.7M in other compensation. NBCU chief Steve Burke came close to his boss with an 18.1% raise that brought him to $31.1M. Roberts’ take includes $192,177 for personal use of the company jet; Burke’s aircraft use came to $390,994. The board says that Roberts “continued to demonstrate strong leadership” and adds that Burke “successfully managed NBCUniversal.” In a letter to shareholders Roberts talks up Comcast’s planned $45.2B acquisition of Time Warner Cable noting that “once again” he has called on his government affairs consigliere David Cohen “to help guide us through the government approval process so we can achieve a timely close.” The EVP, who is becoming a celeb in his own right from his appearances to defend the controversial deal, made $14M last year, down 12.1%. Comcast will hold its annual meeting on … Read More »

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NBCU Chief Steve Burke Says Network Should Be Judged On Sales To 18-49 Demo

By | Monday April 7, 2014 @ 9:59am PDT

Steve BurkeSteve Burke doesn’t want people, or advertisers, to pay attention to total viewer ratings because “we’re in the 18-to-49 business,” he told a press gathering today in the run-up to the upfront sales season. Indeed, if presented with a program that would attract a big total audience, but not would be weak in the target demo, “we wouldn’t pick that show up,” he says. That’s required a change in thinking at the NBC, where shows such as Today and Nightly News With Brian Williams often are promoted on the basis of the 25-54 demo. nbc4“They should at least know both” the younger and older demo numbers, Burke says. He acknowledges that older viewers can be attractive for advertisers; for example, NBC has tried to capitalize on The Blacklist‘s popularity with 55-to-64 year olds, a group it calls the Alpha Boomers. Still, Burke says, “it’s very hard to get the industry to change” and “as long as people keep score that way [by focusing on young adults], that’s how we’re going to broadcast.”

The NBCUniversal exec renewed a familiar call for the industry to look at 52 weeks of programming instead of the 35 weeks from September to May. “We’re living in a completely different time now,” he says. “We’re competing straight through the summer.” He and research chief Alan Wurtzel also want Nielsen to step up its efforts to measure viewing on mobile devices, and advertisers to buy spots based on the number of people watching over seven days, not just three. “Those are things the industry can do today,” Wurtzel says. Burke adds that for some shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show as much as 40% of the views “we’re not monetizing and we need to change that. Read More »

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Steve Burke: NBCU Not Looking At Acquisitions As It Anticipates Growth

By | Wednesday October 30, 2013 @ 7:03am PDT

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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Lauren Zalaznick Leaving NBCUniversal

By | Friday September 27, 2013 @ 10:08am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

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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Steve Burke: NBC Remains “Significantly Behind” Peers In Profitability

By | Wednesday September 11, 2013 @ 9:05am PDT

The NBCUniversal chief puts the gap at as much as $1B even though NBC has “essentially the same cost structure” as ABC, CBS, and Fox. That’s bad news, right? Not to Steve Burke. He told investors at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference today that it “represents a huge opportunity” to grow. Burke is upbeat about collecting more cash from retransmission consent deals with pay TV distributors. NBC made “virtually nothing” from cable and satellite companies two years ago and expects to see $200M in payments this year. That should continue to grow with 75% of NBC’s distribution deals expiring over the next three years. With other networks commanding big increases — including CBS from its recent showdown with Time Warner Cable — Burke sees “no reason why we won’t draft behind other broadcasters.” NBC also should see improvement in ad rates, which he says sell at about a 20% discount to its rivals. “Our ratings are lower than we’d like them to be.” That discount “will go away” although “it may not be in a year.” He expects big improvements this year with the Winter Olympics running on NBC in February, the middle of the broadcast season. “It will be a great launch pad for all of our spring shows….We feel like we’re putting ourselves in a position to do better this fall and spring.” Burke adds that his outlays for programming are under control — appreciating “in the mid-to-high single digit range” each year, although he hasn’t set budgets for next year yet. Read More »

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UPDATE: NBCU & WGA East Spar Anew Over Peacock Productions Union Vote Appeal

By | Tuesday August 27, 2013 @ 10:08am PDT

2ND UPDATE, 10:08 AM: The blame game continues in the stalled Peacock Productions unionization election. First more than 40 writers sent a protest letter to NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke on WGA East letterhead on Monday (see below). They were upset over the fact that a National Labor Relations appeal by the company of a vote by Peacock freelancers on June 14 have not yet been counted and ballots impounded. Then today NBCU said they didn’t impound anything, it was the NLRB as a part of the appeal procedure and out of their hands. Now WGA East Executive Director Lowell Peterson has sent me a new statement annoyed at what he sees as NBCU’s sophistry. “Sad to see NBCU indulge in corporate double talk. The issue is simple, NBCU executives have the power to unblock the vote and let the ballots be counted. We call on them again to do so and allow the writer-producers to make their own decision about representation. That’s democracy at work,” said Peterson. The thing is in all this jockeying for position, both sides are right. NBCU could asked the NLRB to have their appeal halted so the votes could be counted. However, they didn’t actually stop the votes from being counted or had the ballots impounded, that was done by the NLRB. And, if anyone is asking, they are still investigating the case, sources tell me.

UPDATE, 8:25 AM: NBCUniversal‘s Peacock Productions says it didn’t ask to have any votes impounded in a union election — the National Labor Relations Board did. After a public letter Monday to NBCU chief Steve Burke from dozens of NBC writers (see below) on the dispute over some freelancers at Peacock seeking to join WGA East, the company sent me its own statement today on the matter:

Prior to the June 14 vote, we asked the NLRB to review the Regional Director’s decision regarding the supervisory status of Peacock’s freelance producers. The NLRB granted us a review. As is part of the normal process, the votes were impounded by the NLRB until a decision is made. We are still waiting for the NLRB to render their decision, which is why no votes have been counted.

We believe that Peacock’s producers hold meaningful supervisory authority, which according to Federal Labor Law, excludes them from voting. The Board decided to review the Regional Director’s decision and is currently in the process of doing so.

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Comcast Extends NBCU Chief Steve Burke’s Contract To 2018

By | Friday August 16, 2013 @ 10:19am PDT

Steve Burke‘s previous deal, made in late 2009, was due to expire at the end of 2014. Now it will run through August 2018, with an 18% increase in his base salary to $2.6M while his annual cash bonus opportunity stays at 300% of his base salary, the company says in an SEC filing. Burke also secured a $5M performance-based bonus described as an “inducement” for him to stay and “on account of Mr. Burke’s outstanding work in integrating NBCUniversal and its businesses into Comcast, and making extraordinary progress in improving its businesses and results.” But the bonus is contingent on him remaining at the company for 13 months — and if Comcast’s operating cash flow for the year ending in June 2014 is at least 101% what it was the previous year. Last year Burke’s compensation package came to $26.3M including $2.2M salary, $4.3M in stock awards, $4.7M in option awards, $7.2M in non-equity incentives, $5.3M increased value of pension value, and $2.6M in other compensation.

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Steve Burke Says ‘Despicable Me 2′ Is Universal’s Most Profitable Film Ever And Lauds Pact With Legendary

NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke made his observations this morning in Comcast‘s Q2 conference call with analysts as he discussed his company’s approach to films following its new production and finance partnership with Legendary Entertainment. Burke noted that NBCU is delighted with its animation alliance with Illumination. The partners’ Despicable Me 2 will become “the single most profitable film in the 100 year history of Universal Studios.” Meanwhile, Legendary is “going to make some of their own films” that target fanboys while Universal “will concentrate on everything else.” Burke says that NBCU will co-finance some of Legendary’s films, and it will co-finance some of Universal’s. He’s pleased with the outcome: “It was a competitive auction to see who would end up with the Legendary film relationship.”

Related: Comcast Beats Q2 Earnings Forecasts With Help From NBCU

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NBCU Names Kimberley Harris To Be General Counsel Replacing Rick Cotton

By | Tuesday July 16, 2013 @ 10:03am PDT

This is the shoe we’ve been waiting to hear drop since last year when longtime NBC General Counsel Rick Cotton said that he’ll focus on anti-piracy issues once a replacement was named. That happened today with the appointment of Kimberley Harris to be NBCUniversal‘s EVP and General Counsel beginning September 3. She’ll report to NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke coordinating the company’s global regulatory and legislative agenda while overseeing the Law Department which guides the company’s film studio, two broadcast networks, 18 cable channels, 50-plus digital sites, and theme park operations. A magna cum laude Harvard grad with a law degree from Yale, Harris moves to the company from Davis Polk & Wardwell — but may be best known for her work from 2010 to 2012 in the White House Counsel’s Office where she helped to manage the Obama administration’s responses to congressional investigations and litigation. Prior to that she worked on white collar crime issues at the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Cotton joined NBC in 1989 and became general counsel for NBCUniversal in 2004. He’ll now become Senior Counselor for IP Protection working with colleagues at the entertainment operation as well as parent company Comcast. “Rick Cotton’s many contributions have earned him the gratitude of this company, and the respect of our industry,” Burke says. “I am pleased that Rick will continue to lead our efforts regarding digital theft and counterfeiting, and that he will help ensure a smooth transition.”

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TOLDJA! Legendary Moves To NBCU With Multiyear Film And TV Deal

As Deadline’s Nikki Finke reported on July 6, Legendary Entertainment has set up a new partnership with NBCUniversal. While nothing formal has been announced, sources say the multiyear film/television financial, distribution, marketing, and production deal will start in 2014. After various meetings over the past few months, the deal was negotiated primarily by Universal prez Jimmy Horowitz, Legendary’s Thomas Tull and Comcast No. 2 Steve Burke. With the split from Warner Bros now complete, Legendary and the studio still have to share a stage down at Comic-Con next week promoting Godzilla and Seventh Son. Legendary and WB also have the Guillermo del Toro-directed Pacific Rim coming out on Friday; its premiere is tonight in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Warner Bros is working on a $450M-plus slate financing deal with Dune Entertainment that would be majority funded by Brett Ratner and James Packer’s RatPac Entertainment.
Universal’s Year-Long Turnaround Shows Movie Business’ Cyclical Nature

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Legendary- NBCU? Thomas Tull Has Met Twice With Steve Burke But 4 Studios Still In This

EXCLUSIVE: There’s about to be a media frenzy among reporters who don’t know how Hollywood deals work. I’ve learned that Legendary Entertainment boss Thomas Tull is still talking to 4 studios – NBCU, Fox, Sony, and Warner Bros where his movie deal is based. (Paramount and Disney respectfully declined.) But Tull has met with NBCUniversal chief and Comcast #2 Steve Burke twice and that’s signaling to insiders that NBCU has moved into 1st position and that a pairing might be imminent. Of course, such deals can take months of painstaking negotiations and Tull himself has said he’ll make up his mind within 60 days. But “Tull is known to push bankers and lawyers out of the room when he wants something and to move pretty quickly,” an insider tells me. “The real issue is how long it’ll take to get through Comcast/NBCU’s layers.” Now that ousted Warner Bros television chief has joined Legendary, Tull now is looking for “an even more all-encompassing deal to leverage his IP” than previously, one that includes both television as well as movies, a source tells me. MORE

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Comcast’s Brian Roberts Made $29.1M In 2012, +8.1%

By | Friday April 5, 2013 @ 1:50pm PDT

NBCUniversal has its woes, but Comcast execs have little reason to complain about their personal incomes for 2012. CEO Brian Roberts — who controls a third of the voting shares — received a nice bump in pay in a year when Comcast stock appreciated 54%. His package includes $2.8M salary, $4.8M in stock awards, $4.8M in option awards, $9M in non-equity incentives, $4M change in pension value, and $3.7M in other compensation according to the proxy filed at the SEC this afternoon. About $3.3M from the “other” category represents deferred compensation. At least Roberts spread the wealth among his colleagues. His pay amounted to 1.4 times the median for Comcast’s four other top execs, which shouldn’t alarm corporate governance activists who become concerned when the CEO makes more than 3 times the average for other top execs named in the proxy. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke ended up with $26.3M, +11.3%. Read More »

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Matt Lauer Offered To Quit ‘Today’ Amid Ann Curry And Ratings Messes

By | Monday March 11, 2013 @ 2:01pm PDT

Matt Lauer criticized NBC over Ann Curry‘s dismissal and says he offered to quit. At least that’s the way NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke remembers it according to a piece today from Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast. The offer came amid Today‘s declining ratings and the messy departure of Ann Curry in June in favor of Savannah Guthrie. “If you think the show’s better off without me, let me know, and I’ll get out of the way,” Burke said Lauer told him. Burke said no way. Lauer had taken the lion’s share of criticism for how Curry left the show, with some reports blaming him directly for forcing her out. The backlash of that move was the start of a ratings crater — the next month, rival Good Morning America beat Today in total viewers and the 25-54 demo for the first time in 17 years. “I don’t think the show and the network handled the [Curry] transition well. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that,” Lauer told the website. (In fact, former NBC News president Steve Capus told Kurtz that Lauer told the network to give Curry time to adjust to her relatively new role as co-anchor. “He was quietly and publicly a supporter of Ann’s throughout the entire process. It is unfair that Matt has shouldered an undue amount of blame for a decision he disagreed with”, Capus said.) Lauer added, “We were seen as a family, and we didn’t handle a family matter well”.

‘Today’ Exec Producer Defends Ann Curry Ouster
‘GMA’ Wins First February Sweep Since Mid-1990s Read More »

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Bonnie Hammer Takes Over All NBCU Cable Entertainment Cable Nets, Lauren Zalaznick Shifts To New Role, Joe Uva Gets Telemundo

By | Monday February 4, 2013 @ 12:21pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

Bonnie Hammer is officially NBCUniversal‘s cable queen. Hammer, who added E! and G4 to her portfolio of USA, Syfy and Universal Cable Prods after the Comcast merger, is now taking over the combined company’s entire entertainment cable universe including Bravo, Oxygen and Style, which had been under the purview of fellow top-ranked NBCU cable executive Lauren Zalaznick. Zalaznick, whose post-merger portfolio was a hodgepodge mix of cable networks (Bravo, Style), Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo and digital properties — red-hot Fandago and iVillage (which recently shifted to NBC News Digital) — will now take on a new role as EVP NBCUniversal, focusing on innovation, digital, monetization and emerging technology across the company. Telemundo oversight is going to former Univision Communications CEO Joe Uva, who is joining NBCUniversal as Chairman, Hispanic Enterprises and Content. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke just outlined the restructuring in an internal email (below).

The awkward separation of NBCU’s entertainment cable assets had historic reasons. Hammer and Zalaznick originally made their mark running a cable network (Sci Fi Channel and Trio, respectively) and as they rose through the ranks, the two kept expanding their portfolios until all NBCUniversal entertainment cable nets were under the supervision of one of them. Heading into the Comcast-NBCU merger, one of Burke’s trickiest tasks was trying to keep both Hammer and Zalaznick in the company. That meant giving each some of Comcast’s cable nets — E! and G4 went to Hammer, Style to Zalaznick. But the separation of NBCU’s entertainment cable assets has made less and less sense, especially as networks on both sides were starting to move in a similar direction. Read More »

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NBCU Chief Says NBC Is “Still Underperforming” Despite Ratings Gains

By | Friday October 26, 2012 @ 7:18am PDT

Steve Burke NBC EarningsWarning to people at NBC who want to celebrate the network’s stand-out primetime ratings improvement in the first few weeks of the new TV season: Don’t invite NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke to the party. He might pour out the punch bowl, and send the band packing. “We’re still underperforming by my standards,” he told analysts this morning in Comcast’s call to discuss its Q3 earnings. “Broadcast profitability can be dramatically higher,” he added. “We feel like we’re on the right path but there’s a long, long way to go.” His boss, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, was slightly less dour. ”It’s certainly early, but I believe and hope we’re seeing the beginning of a turnaround,” he said. Few would have begrudged the execs if they chose to be a little more exuberant. NBC’s Live+Same Day primetime ratings for 18- to 49-year-olds are +19% for the first four weeks of the new season, while ABC’s -11%, CBS is -18%, and Fox is -24%. Overall, the nets are “down at an alarming rate,” Macquarie Equities Research’s Tim Nollan says. Burke doesn’t seem to think that the networks themselves are to blame, for example by fielding weak shows. Tablets and smartphones have “given people so many options for viewing that they’re viewing more [television programming] but in places that are neither measured nor monetized,” he says. Read More »

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NBCU’s Steve Burke Says He Wants ‘Ted 2′ “As Soon As We Can”

By | Thursday September 13, 2012 @ 9:49am PDT

Sequels and animation are at the top of the agenda for Universal‘s film production  – a business that’s “not for the faint of heart” — NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told analysts today at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference. “We’ve had our ups and downs,” he says. But he hopes to stabilize things by promoting “as many franchises as we can.” He vows that “you’ll see future Bourne films” following the success of The Bourne Legacy. He adds that Universal has “dusted off” its American Pie franchise and “we’d like to see a Ted 2 as soon as we can.” He’s upbeat about upcoming sequels to Despicable Me and Fast And Furious. In addition, Burke says he wants Universal to have more animation. “The key is to go from making one film every 18 months to making two a year.”

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NBCUniversal Begins $190M NYC Facilities Upgrade

By | Tuesday May 8, 2012 @ 3:41pm PDT

NBCUniversal today announced a $190 million upgrade to its 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters and other New York City facilities. The construction, which is scheduled for completion in mid-2014, will see more than 1.2 million square feet of renovation within 30 Rock. That work includes a full upgrade of the building’s office space and production facilities. The work will include the building of a “new state-of-the-art studio control room, and updating critical components of the company’s technical infrastructure, including replacing the Network’s underlying broadcast origination technology, as well as implementing a new studio and production ‘fiber highway,’ ” said NBCUniversal today. “That will enable new production techniques and new productions of all kinds to have their home at 30 Rock and to generate increasing employment through the five boroughs of the city,” NBCUniversal EVP Rick Cotton said. Other construction at 30 Rock, which houses NBC News and Saturday Night Live among others, includes the building of a new two-story commissary. NBCUniversal says the new commissary should be completed by the end of the year; CEO Steve Burke was on hand today for the symbolic knocking down of a wall to begin that work. Construction also will be undertaken at the company’s leased offices at 1212 Avenue of the Americas, where NBCUniversal has nearly 245,000 square feet of space. During the construction there will be, Deadline has learned, some temporary relocation of offices but not of shows from … Read More »

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