Comcast Denies NBC Universal Acquisition

October 2, 2009 Updated: October 1, 2015
The NBC peacock logo hangs on the NBC studios building last year in Burbank, California. Rumors are swirling that NBC Universal was put up for sale by parent General Electric Co. (David McNew/Getty Images )
The NBC peacock logo hangs on the NBC studios building last year in Burbank, California. Rumors are swirling that NBC Universal was put up for sale by parent General Electric Co. (David McNew/Getty Images )

NEW YORK—Comcast Corp., the nation’s leading cable television provider, on Thursday denied a published report that the company has reached an agreement to purchase NBC Universal for $35 billion.

Entertainment industry blog TheWrap.com reported on Wednesday night, citing individuals familiar with the discussion that a deal was reached for $35 billion. NBC Universal is 80 percent owned by the General Electric Co. and 20 percent owned by France media giant Vivendi SA.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. denied the transaction and called the report "inaccurate.” Officials from both Comcast and GE declined to comment further.

GE had long denied reports that it is exploring a possible sale of NBC Universal, but in recent weeks analysts have said that multiple media and entertainment companies have kicked the tires on possibly buying a stake in the studio.

Comcast Expanding

 

At first glance, Comcast is a good candidate to purchase NBC Universal, if it is up for sale. Comcast has long tried to expand its revenue base outside cable television, and in 2004 made a failed bid to acquire Walt Disney Co. for $54 billion.

As of December 2008, Comcast had 24 million cable customers, 15 million high-speed Internet customers, and 6.5 million phone customers among 39 U.S. states.

Comcast already owns some programming assets, including the Golf Channel, E!, and VERSUS. But its 2008 revenues from programming of $1.4 billion only accounted for four percent of total revenues.

According to the company’s SEC filings, Comcast saw its number of cable customers drop by 575,000 in 2008 and 180,000 in 2007, “due to increased competition in our service areas, as well as weakness in the overall economy.” During the second quarter of 2009, the company lost 214,000 cable customers.

The company has already begun expanding in non-core business areas. After its investment in Clearwire last year, Comcast is one of the chief developers of WiMax 4G high speed wireless networks in the United States. This summer, it rolled out 4G service in four U.S. cities, in partnership with Google Inc., Intel Corp., Time Warner Cable, and Sprint Nextel Corp.

GE originally purchased NBC in 1985, and in 2004, merged the company with Vivendi’s Universal Studios business to create NBC Universal.

Class-A shares of Comcast dropped 7.0 percent in Thursday trading. GE shares were down $0.45, or 2.7 percent.