NBC U earnings drop in third quarter

Cable nets, parks fly high as net's sale nears closing

Revenues in GE’s 80% stake of NBC Universal were down 15% in the third quarter of 2010 to $4.069 billion with a segment profit of $625 million — flat, in other words. “The real results are better than the reported results,” cautioned GE CFO/vice chairman Keith Sherin.

Sherin said that the entertainment conglom’s results should be considered in light of NBC U’s changed stake in A&E Television Networks last year, which inflated last year’s results. “If you take out the net impact of the (A&E Television Networks) gain and net impairment charges,” NBC U’s operating profit is actually up 5% and its revenue up 7%, said Sherin.

GE chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt said he expected the divesture of NBC U to go forward as planned. “We’re expecting the NBC deal to close in the 4th quarter,” said Immelt. More than once, Immelt answered questions about GE’s growth by predicting better times ahead after NBC U was no longer a part of the company, saying that he expected to see “some real tailwind” for the larger org once the deal was complete.

High-performing properties at NBC U included several cable nets: USA saw double-digit growth for the 17th straight quarter, Bravo and Oxygen both had their best quarters ever, and CNBC saw a 5% profit increase.

Sherin also pointed out “a great result with ‘Despicable Me,'” predicting a $500 million worldwide b.o. for the kid pic. The gain was offset by unnamed “smaller titles” that underperformed, though it’s safe to say that some of those include the $60 million “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” and the $32 million “Repo Men,” along with pics like “MacGruber.”

Parks repped an unqualified win for the net, with attendance and per caps up double digits with the new “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” park in Orlando and “King Kong: 360 3-D” at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Sherin also touted growth in the local ad market (other sources have said political ads are particularly strong this year), as well as ratings for the NFL – the highest in 14 years – and for Jay Leno.

GE also completed purchase of 7.7% of NBC U shares from Vivendi for $2 billion, and completed an additional $5.1 billion debt offering to meet financing requirements for the NBC U/Comcast sale in October.