My $.02 on Comcast's purchase of NBC/Universal
Written by Robert Niles
The long-rumored Comcast takeover of NBC/Universal now appears imminent, thanks to GE buying out Vivendi's remaining 20% stake in the company for a reported US$5.8 billion. With former Universal owner Vivendi out of the way, GE is now free to bring in Comcast as a co-owner, with an option to buy the whole thing. (The Vivendi deal was necessary because (a) Vivendi wanted out and (b) it effectively put a price on the company. Vivendi's 20% was worth $, therefore the whole thing's worth US$29 billion.)Tweet
We've had some fun with the idea of Comcast, a cable TV company, owning NBC/Universal. But what will this deal really mean for the owner of the Universal theme parks? (Okay, co-owner of Universal Orlando.)
I also believe that the folks who run Comcast understand this. That's why they are making a play for a content business. Comcast needs NBC/Universal not to support its cable television business, but to replace its cable television business. Comcast must convert itself from a distribution company to a content company, and buying NBC/Universal provides the swiftest way to do that.
Comcast's COO is Steve Burke, an ex-Disney guy who once served as President of the holding company that runs Disneyland Paris. Remember, Comcast tried to get its hands of Disney a few years back, when the Eisner administration was floundering. And then it even made a play for Universal back then, too. So Comcast has been looking to buy content assets for some time.
Yeah, the content business is tough. With hundreds of thousands of viable, ad-supported websites now online, competition for ad dollars stands at an all-time high. But I'd still rather be in the content business than the distribution business. Internet distribution is about to make the cable provider as obsolete as it is now making the daily, printed, home-delivered newspaper. And theme parks, while only a small portion of the NBC/Universal balance sheet, can be a great cash cow, especially with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter coming online in Orlando.
Comcast is making a smart move... for Comcast. Whether this will be a smart move for NBC/Universal remains to be seen. At least under Comcast, NBC/Universal would be owned by a company that not only values entertainment content, but that sees it as the company's future. That ought to beat being owned by an appliance maker/defense contractor.
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