MediaFile

Comcast, NBC Universal pledge support for local news

Comcast has finally unveiled its formal announcement that it plans to take control of NBC Universal from General Electric. Public interest groups and various U.S. government types have been tutting and clucking over whether this media mega-deal would be against the national interest, and few doubt that Congress and the administration will want to review this plan in loving detail.

To that extent, Comcast released a memo on Thursday outlining its public commitments. There are a bunch in here, but this old-school journalist wants to point out above all else that the company said it’s committed to preserving and enriching “the output of local news, local public affairs and other public interest programming on NBC O&O (“owned and operated”) stations.”

That’s a mighty strong commitment to make. Let’s hope that it doesn’t do what many radio and TV stations have done for years to satisfy their government-mandated public interest requirements and stick all that stuff on the air at 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Also, how much more money will they provide?

Here, meanwhile, are some of the commitments, straight from the memo. Print them out and tape them to your refrigerator so you can hold Comcast’s feet to the fire later if things don’t work out as planned. I marked parts in bold:

    NBC has a proud history in broadcasting with both NBC and Telemundo. Notwithstanding the turbulence in the current media marketplace and the ongoing threats to the business model of a national broadcast network, the combined company remains committed to continuing to provide free over-the-air television through its 0&0 stations and through local broadcast affiliates across the nation. As we negotiate and renew agreements with our broadcast affiliates, we will continue our cooperative dialogue with our affiliates toward a business model to sustain free over-the-air service that can be workable in the evolving economic and technological environment. The NBC owned-and-operated broadcast stations (“0&OS “) have a demonstrated record of quality local programming in major markets around the country. Comcast also has demonstrated its commitment to local programming, including sports and public affairs, and in providing support for public, educational, and government (PEG) access programming. We want to use the combined resources of NBC and Comcast to strengthen localism We intend to preserve and enrich the output of local news, local public affairs, and other public interest programming on NBC 0&0 stations. Since NBCU was acquired by GE in 1986, the owners have abided by a policy (summarized in a filing with the FCC) of ensuring that the content of NBC’s news and public affairs programming would not be influenced by the non-media interests of General Electric. The combined company will continue these policies with respect to the news programming organizations of all NBCU networks and stations, and will extend these policies to the potential influence of each of the owners. To ensure such independence, the combined companies will continue in effect the position and authority of the NBC News ombudsman to address any issues that may arise. Comcast and NBCU have strong track records in children’s programming and children’s issues. The combined company will make an expanded commitment to meeting the viewing needs of children, and the needs of parents to better control their family’s viewing. We reaffirm our commitment to provide clear and understandable on-screen TV Ratings information for all covered programming across all networks (broadcast and cable) of the combined company. We intend to expand the availability of over-the-air programming to the Hispanic community utilizing a portion of the digital broadcast spectrum of the Telemundo O&O’s (as well as offering it to Telemundo affiliates) to enhance the current programming of Tel em undo and Mun2. As a cable operator, Comcast is committed to dealing fairly with all non-affiliated video programmers with whom we do business, and to promoting program diversity. Nearly six out of every seven channels carried by Comcast Cable systems will still be networks unaffiliated with Comcast upon the completion of this transaction. We plan to honor all of NBCU’s collective bargaining agreements. We respect NBCU’s
    existing labor-management relationships and expect them to continue following the
    closing of this transaction.

from DealZone:

DirecTV adds to media merger excitement

With media titans GE and Vivendi still negotiating a deal to bring cable operator Comcast into a mega-media joint venture, a management move at DirecTV is giving dealwatchers a fresh programming alternative.

Yinka Adegoke and Sinead Carew report the appointment of PepsiCo veteran Michael White (pictured below), who has no experience in pay TV, as DirecTV CEO is being read as a sign the company's parent, Liberty Media, just wants a baby-sitter until its sells the operation in the next couple of years.

Telecom leaders Verizon and AT&T approached Liberty earlier this year, they report. Both have cross-marketing deals with DirecTV and would leapfrog the rest of the market with the addition of DirecTV's subscriber base. But fears of insurmountable regulatory resistance put those talks on ice.

Media, tech moguls meet in New York (You are NOT invited)

Media and technology executives are meeting Wednesday and Thursday in New York City at a conference hosted by private equity firm Quadrangle. Note the word private.

When they meet at the Plaza, they will talk about a ton of different things that their customers, their investors and other readers want to know. I have to apologize for them because they’re not letting in any riff-raff. And that includes reporters who get paid to spend all day figuring out how these people decide what kind of entertainment you want, what kind of technology you pay them for and what deals they pursue with the money that you give them when you buy their stock. This event always excludes press, but that’s no reason not to highlight what you probably are missing because of this. After all, who wants to wait for the 8-K filing?

Some press will be allowed, but it will be an assortment of celebrity journalists who will moderate panels and, according to Peter Kafka, author of “MediaMemo” at News Corp’s AllThingsD blog, will not write about the event (I’m talking about Maria Bartiromo and David Faber of CNBC, The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, etc).

Is NBC Universal worth $30 billion?

French conglomerate Vivendi this week joined a long list of media and entertainment companies that have been forced to write down their book values after suffering a sharp drop in advertising revenue and tumbling share prices, with no immediate turnaround visible on the horizon.

But what caught our eye was a new valuation for NBC Universal implied in the writedown. Vivendi said in its results report that it took 1.503 billion euros off the value of its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal. It didn’t say what the stake was now worth, so we asked our colleague in Paris to check with the company. A Vivendi spokesman said it wrote the NBC stake to around $6 billion in 2008 accounts. By our math, that would value NBC Universal at about $30 billion.

So is NBCU worth $30 billion? What would the TV network, movie studio and theme park owner fetch on the market if GE/Vivendi ever put it up for sale? We’ll leave you to decide, but here’s a graph of the financials for some of the biggest U.S. media companies for comparison.