When the deal was first announced in late 2009, NBC's audience ratings were sagging badly, raising doubts about the future of the broadcast pioneer that once boasted stars such as Johnny Carson, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Tom Brokaw.
More recently, though, NBC has bounced back with a new hit in "The Voice" and has a consistent ratings leader in "Sunday Night Football" during the fall and early winter. By last fall, NBC could boast for the first time in a decade that it was drawing the most viewers in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic prized by advertisers. Overall, NBC still ranked behind CBS and ABC, but at least it was no longer bringing up the rear in fourth place, as had been the case for several years.
Higher ratings translate into more advertising revenue, even though Comcast gets two-thirds of its revenue as a cable-TV and Internet access provider. NBC's improved success from TV shows also figures to bring in higher licensing fees from the Internet video services run by Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
NBC's turnaround is one of the main reasons Roberts wanted to take complete ownership of NBCUniversal now.
"We thought that we would have to pay more later," Roberts said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press.
"We really have known we wanted to buy 100 percent from the beginning of the transaction. We wanted to learn the business," he added. "We feel that now is an opportune time."
The deal, expected to be completed by the end of March, values NBCUniversal at $34 billion, not including $5 billion in debt. That's about 13 percent higher than two years ago, when Comcast's investment valued the company at about $30 billion, also excluding debt.