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GE greenlights courtship

NBC U to pursue Dream

NEW YORK — General Electric’s board of directors gave Bob Wright’s NBC Universal a formal nod Friday to pursue an acquisition of DreamWorks.

A purchase would include DreamWorks’ 60-title library and would safeguard and expand lucrative distribution deals with DreamWorks (for live-action pics) and DreamWorks Animation.

Still, one Universal insider figures there’s less than a 50% chance the two sides will be able to agree on price.

Wall Streeters think DreamWorks is looking for top dollar, between $1 billion and $1.4 billion. They also said U would like to lock in Steven Spielberg for one or two pictures a year, and it’s not clear whether that’s an option.

Spielberg founded DreamWorks a decade ago with partners Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.

Talks, which have been on for weeks but are likely to ramp up in intensity, indicate that content is taking an increasingly prominent role at NBC Universal as the NBC network stumbles and the broadcast business as a whole faces a host of challenges. As distribution pipelines evolve and proliferate, media execs from all the big congloms have said publicly and repeatedly that the key to success is content to feed them and heft to dictate terms.

One Wall Streeter speculated that NBC U, which has posted strong financial results to date, may also be bulking up as it looks ahead to next year, when its numbers are likely to dip.

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