NBCU Reports Q4 Loss Amid Prime-Time Ratings Woes at NBC

Jan 20, 2006  •  Post A Comment

NBC’s prime-time troubles continued to weigh on NBC Universal’s overall results in the 2005 fourth quarter, as strength at the media company’s film and cable operations failed to offset ratings challenges at the network.

NBCU’s segment profit fell 7 percent to $801 million, while revenue slipped 3 percent to nearly $4.2 billion.

However, the strength of NBCU’s cable channels did help the company post a 21 percent increase in segment profit to $3.1 billion for the full year. NBCU’s revenue for 2005 rose 14 percent to $5.4 billion.

NBCU’s numbers, which were released as part of parent company General Electric’s full-year earnings report, reflected the struggles at NBC, which GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt described as having had a “tough fourth quarter.”

Mr. Immelt said the company expects a similar performance in the 2006 first quarter as NBC continues to dig itself out of a ratings hole.

However, he noted that NBC is “making progress with prime[time] ratings,” and noted that the network’s strategy of moving “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office” from Tuesday to Thursday is beginning to pay off. The company is predicting that NBCU’s first-quarter revenue will be up 10 to 15 percent, while segment profit will be down about 10 percent.

GE officials said that they expect revenue from the 2006 Winter Olympics to be around $650 million to $750 million in the first quarter, which Mr. Immelt said would result in break-even results for the network. He noted that GE “got working on Torino later,” but added that the Beijing Olympic Games in summer 2008 should provide a significant revenue boost for GE, as other divisions within the conglomerate will have the opportunity to provide products and services to the host city.

GE posted a 46 percent decline in fourth-quarter profit to nearly $3.1 billion, while revenue rose 3 percent to $40.7 billion. For the year, GE’s profit slipped 3 percent to $16.4 billion, while revenue rose 11 percent to $149.7 billion. The profit declines were blamed on GE’s discontinuation of its insurance business.