SyFy and Bravo, say “hello” to the Golf Channel and E! The popular cable networks are just a few of the recognizable names that will be under one roof with today’s announcement that Comcast and GE have signed a definitive agreement to form a new joint venture. Fusing NBC Universal with Comcast’s cable and sports networks and certain digital properties, the new firm will be 51 percent owned by Comcast, 49 percent owned by GE and managed by Comcast. As GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt says in the video below, the new venture is good for viewers and investors.
Jeff Zucker, current president and CEO of NBCU, will lead the new venture, which values NBCU’s businesses at $30 billion. The deal combines NBCU’s broadcast and cable networks, movie studio, theme parks and other investments with Comcast’s assets valued at $7.25 billion. And when they finally get rolling as a combined company, both teams will already have much in common – from the comedy DNA running through shows such as NBC’s “30 Rock” and E!’s “The Soup,” to the online video wizardry driving hulu.com and Comcast’s Fancast site, to a passion for high-octane sports with NBC’s Olympics and Comcast’s Tour de France coverage.
When it closes, the deal frees up $8 billion for GE to redeploy in its industrial businesses. At the same time, by maintaining a 49 percent stake, GE shareholders will benefit over the next several years from the strength of the new company’s well-established networks and its strong cash flow capabilities. As Jeff Immelt summed it up: “It simplifies our portfolio for investors while allowing us to have a major interest in a more valuable media business.”
Importantly, the deal combines NBCU’s programs and its TV and film libraries with Comcast’s experience in distribution across multiple devices via cable and the Internet. It means the new NBCU will be in a position to accelerate the development of both in-home and mobile viewing options. That ability to give viewers more choices on how they view top shows is seen as a must-have capability in a media landscape that is changing at a rapid pace.
Comcast already has a head start in that arena, as well as a long-term vision to deliver exponentially more video content on TV, online and across platforms. The company is a leader in what the cable industry calls the “TV Everywhere” movement, which aims to bring thousands of movies and shows to cable customers online for no additional cost. It was Comcast that created the free video on demand business model, which led to the explosive growth of on-demand TV viewing.