Peacock preens at GE powwow

GE shows it prizes NBC at leadership meeting

NEW YORK — The Peacock marched off with a fair share of the kudos at General Electric’s annual global leadership powwow in Boca Raton, Fla., last week, as NBC cable exec Jeff Gaspin fended off stiff competition from turbine engines, plastics and financial services to snare the Leadership Award in the category of “imagination.”

NBC, obviously still a star in the vast GE enterprise, won the Chairman’s Leadership Award for Strategic Performance in 2003.

Taking one of four GE-wide leadership awards presented at the industrial conglom’s year-end management meet, Gaspin and his team were honored in large part for ratings gains at cable net Bravo, particularly the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” phenom.

Gaspin is Bravo prexy as well as exec VP of alternative series, specials, longform and program strategy.

Such kudos should not be taken lightly in a company whose annual sales — $132 billion — are greater than the gross domestic product of most countries. NBC’s contribution to the cause is just under $7 billion.

NBC won its overall award in recognition of putting together the largest single acquisition in GE history with the planned merger with Vivendi Universal Entertainment. Also cited were the broadcaster’s success in securing the U.S. media rights to the Olympic Games through 2012, its successful integration of cabler Bravo and its ability to “dramatically” boost its visibility and profitability.

In an internal memo to employees, NBC chief Bob Wright noted the net also “turned in a record-breaking financial performance and continued to demonstrate programming strength across all our platforms.”

GE chief exec Jeff Immelt has won considerable kudos from Wall Street over the past year for having the guts to embark on a series of big deals, including the acquisition of U to bulk up the broadcasting division once considered a quaint sideline within Jack Welch’s vast industrial conglom.

Immelt’s decision to back Wright’s conviction that the business could grow considerably as a more content-hedged, vertically integrated unit was certainly a major vote of confidence for the NBC management team.

A year ago, NBC won the overall performance award, a distinction this year bestowed upon the commercial finance unit.

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