The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Entertainment

February 13, 2013

Comcast doubles down on TV in $16.7B deal for NBCU



LOS ANGELES (AP) — Comcast's $16.7 billion deal to buy the remaining half of NBCUniversal ahead of schedule represents a resounding vote of confidence in the future of TV, even as the growth of Internet video reshapes the entertainment landscape.

The decision was driven largely by Comcast Corp.'s belief that it would end up paying substantially more for General Electric Co.'s remaining 49 percent stake if it had waited until 2018, as had been envisioned in 2011 when the cable TV provider acquired majority control of NBCUniversal.

"We didn't have to do this now, we chose to do it," Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in a Wednesday morning interview on CNBC. "We're bullish on the businesses we're buying."

The late Tuesday announcement sent shares of both companies up. Comcast was up 8 percent and GE added 3 percent in premarket trading Wednesday.

The flagship NBC network, once seen as the deal's albatross, has been on the turnaround. Broadcast TV revenue rose 7 percent last year, even after excluding the Super Bowl and the Olympics. Theme parks, the Universal Pictures movie studio and pay TV networks such as USA and SyFy have grown, too.

As the advertising market has rebounded with the economy, so have the fortunes of NBCUniversal and other media companies such as CBS Corp. and ABC owner The Walt Disney Co. That made the latest transaction, announced Tuesday, seem like a savvy one at a relatively modest price.

"I think the television business has turned out to be much more powerful as an advertising medium than people were thinking five years ago," said Jonathan Taplin, a professor specializing in digital media at the University of Southern California. "Comcast made a really smart move in believing that TV would continue to be a really important part of the advertising picture for years to come."

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