GE lights up over film and cable profits

Total revenue for conglom jumped 10%

NBC Universal parent General Electric saw profits surge 14% to $4 billion last quarter — no thanks to NBC.

Chairman-CEO Jeffrey Immelt plugged the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a key event in the quest for synergy between NBC Universal and the rest of GE.

Of its six core businesses, media and entertainment alone was a laggard in the first quarter, with the struggling TV network canceling out gains in pics and cable.

Total revenue for the giant conglom jumped 10% to nearly $38 billion.

NBC U’s profits fell 8% to $654 million. Revenue jumped 24% to $4.5 billion, boosted by a $684 million inflow from February’s Torino Winter Games.

Said Olympics, however, lost the net $70 million for the quarter. For full year ’06, they’ll book a slight profit.

As a result, the broadcast biz — network, stations and production — which makes up about a quarter of NBC U, saw profit plunge 25%.

Film and cable went the opposite direction, rising 22%.

U owns cablers USA Network, Sci Fi and Bravo. GE said ratings are up sharply at CNBC and MSNBC.

At the studio, “It was a solid film quarter,” both in theatrical and DVD sales, Immelt said. “King Kong” set a record, with 6.5 million units sold in its first weeks out on DVD/video.

(Excluding the Olympics, GE said NBC U revenue rose 5%, and profits grew 6%.)

Immelt sees NBC U’s profits down 10% in the second quarter of ’06 and flat for rest of the year.

The upfronts are in a month.

NBC, while it had some qualified successes this year in primetime, is still struggling from its precipitous plunge from first to last place among major broadcast nets. A few key shows like “Friends” and “Frasier” ended their runs, and the net was slow to respond.

“In primetime, we’re making progress,” Immelt said. “We have spent a lot on development, and we’re confident about where we are heading.”

One investor asked what synergies flowed to the company’s other businesses, such as infrastructure, by owning NBC Universal. Immelt cited the highly anticipated 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, which could provide opportunities for numerous GE businesses.

Immelt also sees $800 million-$1 billion in revenue from those Olympics.

“Torino was a tough venue, a tough set of dynamics. I think Beijing will be a whole other story. … I think it will be highly beneficial both for NBC and for the rest of the company.”