The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Entertainment

February 13, 2013

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

(Continued)

Compare that to CBS's stock price, which has more than doubled, or Disney's, which has risen 41 percent, since then. That makes the transaction for the rest of NBCUniversal a steal.

Complete ownership will let Comcast benefit more from the rising price of sports rights and other TV programs. It avoids solely being in the uncomfortable position of passing those costs onto customers. And long-term rights deals between the TV networks and their cable and satellite distributors have ensured the importance of TV, even as Web video is on the rise.

Diversification was one reason Comcast bought a majority stake in NBCUniversal two years ago.

Jonathan Atkin, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, contrasted Comcast's fortunes with the woes of Time Warner Cable Inc., whose shares have plunged 13 percent since it reported in late January that profit margins would be squeezed this year by higher programming costs.

"Look at what happened to Time Warner Cable," Atkin said. "Comcast, as a slightly more diversified conglomerate, is less exposed to that."

Besides buying the rest of NBCUniversal, Comcast agreed to pay GE another $1.4 billion for other assets that include one of New York's best-known landmarks, NBC's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The building also was the setting for the NBC comedy series "30 Rock," a fictional version of the broadcast network that skewered the management of both GE and Comcast before airing its final episode two weeks ago.

By selling the rest of its NBCUniversal stake, GE is unraveling part of the legacy of former Chairman Jack Welch. In 1986 he bought RCA and NBC to help his industrial conglomerate get a reliable source of cash while overseas manufacturing competition loomed.

Getting cash sooner rather than later made GE a motivated seller this time. The Fairfield, Conn., company plans to use the money to buy back stock and "to invest in our industrial business," GE CEO Jeff Immelt said in a statement.

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