In a first quarter where scripted programming was severely limited by the effects of the lengthy Hollywood writers strike, NBC Universal managed to boost its revenue by 3 percent to $3.58 billion, and increase it profit also by 3 percent. But it fell far short of its target of 5-10 percent profit growth.
The truth is, NBC was a bright spot in a surprisingly weak quarterly financial report of parent General Electric, whose overall results were hurt by the soft economy. GE has so far said little about the catalyst or troubles of its media arm which has been struggling since favorites “Friends” and “Frasier” ended their runs four years ago and faces particularly intense pressure to rebound. NBC could again finish the season last in the ratings race behind Fox, ABC and CBS.
It’s possible the profit and revenue gains were the result of cost-cutting. Or, despite Bruce Springsteen’s assertion that there are “57 Channels and Nothin’ On”, maybe TV lovers, you know, love TV, no matter what is on — even if it is a never-ending stream of reality programs such as “Deal or No Deal” and “The Apprentice.”
Fortune suggests that the results may fuel cries for GE to spin off or sell its media holdings.
UPDATE: Here’s what GE executives said about NBC Universal on the conference call they held with investors Friday morning: