Q3 revenues were up 3% and profits 9% for NBC Universal, which was right on track with what parent GE had been expecting. GE CEO Jeff Immelt applauded Jeff Zucker and his team for their fourth straight quarter of increased profits, with number five expected in the current quarter.
For the entire company – and GE is one of the world’s largest an most diversified conglomerates – net earnings for the quarter were up 14% to 5.5 billion bucks and earnings per share rose 15% to 54 cents. That was in line with Wall Street expectations, but the stock fell because analysts noted that some of the gain was due to a lower-than-expected tax bite and that profits at the infrastructure unit were below expectations.
NBC Universal accounted for a relatively small amount of GE’s total Q3 revenues of 42.53 billion, but NBCU did have an up quarter, with revenues rising 3% to 3.76 billion. More importantly, profits for the media unit rose 9% to 589 million, nearly equaling the companywide profit growth of 10%. In his conference call with analysts, Immelt hailed the new fall lineup for NBC, said scatter pricing was high and declared the advertising market for network television "robust." For the current Q4, GE is projecting that NBCU revenues will be down 5%, but, even so, that profits will be up 10-15%. In his commentary during the call, GE CFO Keith Sherin noted that NBC increasingly owns the content that it airs, allowing it to monetize that content off-network, such as the recent deal to sell "Heroes" reruns to cable channels.
TVBR observation: What about the "hot rumor" on Wall Street last week that GE was planning to put NBCU up for sale after collecting the revenues from the 2008 Beijing Olympics? Well, not one analyst asked Immelt about it. No doubt they knew that he would not answer the question.