You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NBC exec has Wright stuff for merger

Exec finds signature deal for GE, his career

Peacock chairman and chief exec Bob Wright has always defied easy characterization.

On the surface, Hollywood’s newest mogul is a straitlaced, East Coast-based GE company man who rose through the ranks from financial services and cable systems to preside over NBC’s transformation after the network was acquired from RCA in 1986.

But Wright is in fact a rare contradiction in Hollywood: He’s a shrewd managerial suit trained in Jack Welchian financial discipline who also cultivates a discerning and sensitive nose for showbiz. His reputation as an adept delegator and nurturer of talent is well documented, but Wright is just as well known for his hands-on management of a sometimes unruly network business, where he presides over everything from talent deals and show selection to makeovers at his news nets.

But whatever Wright may lack in Hollywood insider cred, he more than makes up for in management street smarts; allies also cite his uncanny knack for entertainment industry nuance. In Wright’s world, allegiance to the lord of the bottom line has not ruled out placing big bets on programming or even riskier gambles like Telemundo.

Looking for stability

Wright, the longest-serving head of any network, had more than stars in his eyes as he masterminded NBC’s takeover of Vivendi Universal Entertainment. He saw that the path to stability for the network and growth for GE lay in content and the clout it provides.

After 17 years at the helm of NBC, Wright’s pursuit of VUE is a signature deal, not just for his career but for parent General Electric, as the industrial conglom transforms its portfolio to regain its clockwork reputation for double-digit earnings growth.

VUE will be the first big deal in boss Jeffrey Immelt’s tenure at the GE helm and an enormous vote of confidence for Wright, who tirelessly championed the deal to the financial community and corporate brass in recent months. Wright’s challenge is to apply the time-tested GE financial discipline to the newest media conglom on the block. It’s a path over which many peers — including Eisner, Bronfman and the Japanese — have stumbled.

The big question is whether Wright can impose TV biz-type discipline on the lower-margin film business.

Wright is no stranger to the high-stakes, ego-charged entertainment business. But having tamed a broadcast network and nurtured a few cable nets, his new challenge is far bigger.

Wrighting the ship

Surely the first few months following a deal will be about steadying a nervous ship. But NBC will have to move quickly to hit its aggressive numbers for first-year synergies — some $400 million-$500 million in new value from cost savings and new revenue streams. That equates to at least $40 million in cost cuts in the first full year; many believe corporate overhead at the studio could be a plump target for Wright’s knife.

The newly minted Hollywood mogul will also no doubt be looking to replicate Viacom’s knack for amassing cable networks and streamlining their operations. Sources said there is at least $30 million in potential savings by combining USA Networks, Sci Fi and Trio with Bravo and the news nets.

Venerable Universal has survived decades of upheaval under multiple owners that used the studio to transform their corporate complexion.

Will NBC succumb to the temptation of keeping all production inhouse and risk losing access to top talent (a la Disney) once it controls a studio? Can it truly use scale alone to tame the highly volatile film biz without cutting it to its core, a la Paramount? And what happens when one poor fiscal quarter or box office run invites the wrath of anxious GE shareholders? Aside from combining TV production efforts, is there a growth strategy beyond Dick Wolf?

There is no easy rule book for media vertical integration, or for what awaits Wright and his team once the due diligence is complete.

More Biz

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    'Leaving Neverland' Lawsuit Proves to Be a Judicial Hot Potato

    The Michael Jackson estate sued HBO last month for airing the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which accuses the late King of Pop of serial child sexual abuse. Since then, the case has had a difficult time finding a judge to handle it. Three federal judges have recused themselves in the last week, citing potential financial conflicts [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Guy Oseary’s New Zealand Fundraiser Nears $150,000, Continues Raising Money

    In the wake of the horrific shootings at New Zealand mosques last week that killed some 49 people, Maverick chief Guy Oseary launched a GoFundMe campaign to “support those affected by this tragedy at this very difficult time,” and began it with an $18,000 donation. Boosted by donations from many celebrities — including Amy Schumer, [...]

  • Cesar Sayoc Headshot

    Florida Man Pleads Guilty in CNN Pipe Bomb Case

    A Florida man pleaded guilty Thursday to sending pipe bombs to CNN and prominent critics of President Donald Trump. Cesar Sayoc appeared in federal court in New York, where he pleaded to 65 counts stemming from the mailing of 16 devices. He faces life in prison, plus 120 months, at his sentencing on Sept. 12. [...]

  • Tencent Profits Hit $1 Billion Per

    Tencent Profits Hit $1 Billion per Month as Company Loses Fizz

    Growing regulatory encroachments into its games business, a smaller than expected spin-off for its music division, and a fourth quarter profits drop, pointed to a troubling year for Chinese tech giant Tencent. Its financial results for the full 2018 period, while delivering profits of nearly $1 billion a month, appeared to bear out that thesis. [...]

  • splice

    Splice Raises $57.5 Million in Latest Funding Round

    Splice, a favorite of music creators that allows access to a library of three million rights-cleared sounds, announced today that the company closed a Series C funding round at $57.5 million. That brings Splice’s total amount raised to roughly $102 million since its launch in 2013. It raised a Series B in November of 2017. [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    WGA Leaders to Meet With Showrunners on Agency Packaging Fight (EXCLUSIVE)

    WGA leaders are set to meet Wednesday night with a group of showrunners who are raising concerns about the guild’s handling of negotiations with talent agents over the issue of packaging fees and agency-affiliated productions. The meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. at WGA West headquarters. WGA West president David Goodman is expected to attend. [...]

  • Bill Murray St Vincent 2014

    Weinstein Co. Sued Over Trademark Infringement in Bill Murray Film

    A horse-racing announcer has sued the Weinstein Co., claiming that the company infringed on his trademarked phrase in a 2014 Bill Murray movie. Dave Johnson is the man behind “And down the stretch they come!,” which he began using while calling races in Illinois in the 1960s. The phrase took off when Johnson moved to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content