Oct 1, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Continued from TVBizWire

" ‘While we do not normally comment on M&A rumors, the report that Comcast has a deal to purchase NBC Universal is inaccurate.’ ”

But Waxman never backed down from her story.

She noted in her story—as has been noted elsewhere—that Vivendi, the French company that owns 20% of NBCU, is thought to want to sell its share. Every fall Vivendi has the option of doing that.

Comcast, Waxman wrote, was one of the company’s that were in the hunt to buy Vivendi’s share.

But, she wrote, the meeting on Tuesday was to talk about a deal for all of NBCU.

Gutsy of Waxman not to back down despite Comcast’s official denial that a deal is done.

Of course much of the rest of the press has now jumped on the bandwagon.. What most of the other reports have said is that there are indeed talks between Comcast and GE, and with Vivendi as well.

The New York Times said it possible that Comcast was looking to acquire Vivendi’s 20% state in the company, but that no terms were agreed upon and that no deal was imminent.

The Wall St. Journal’s Deal Journal blog said Comcast was talking to GE, but that “It isn’t clear if those discussions will lead anywhere.”

The Journal then talks about possible other suitors for NBCU.

Of one of those the Journal writes, “A more exotic scenario envisions Time Warner buying Vivendi’s 20% and trading it back to NBC Universal for Universal Studios. That would leave G.E. with full ownership of NBC Universal’s television networks and TV studio. And it would leave Time Warner to combine Universal with Warner Bros. Many executives say Hollywood is in dire need of consolidation, as studios cut back on the number of movies they make and consumers buy fewer DVDs.”

Oddly, the Journal then shoots down its own scenario by quoting a source familiar with Time Warner saying that it’s doubtful that the company would want Universal, given that it merged its New Line studio into Warner Bros and cut down the number of films it makes.

Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke checked in on the story as well, and her headline tells you what she’s dug up: “Half A Dozen Media Giants Tire-Kicking GE’s NBC Universal: No Deals Imminent, No Prices Yet”

Bloomberg’s news reporters also chased Waxman, and came up with a slightly different scenario.

According to its sources, Bloomberg wrote, “Negotiations for Comcast to buy about 50 percent of NBC Universal have been under way for at least two months and a deal would depend in part on Vivendi SA making a decision to sell its 20 percent holding.”

Knowing Comcast’s appetite to become a bigger content player—its current content holdings include E! Entertainment and Style and G4 and Golf, among others—it’s not likely it would want to obtain a 50% ownership without some trigger down the road allowing it to own 100%. Remember, at one point Comcast wanted to buy the Walt Disney Co.

Analysts have said NBCU is worth anywhere from $21 billion to $35 billion.

A number of reports also said that John Malone and his Liberty Media might also be interested in NBCU, either in part or in full. That would be most intriguing. Years ago, when Malone was running the nation’s largest cable operator, TCI, he made a play for Paramount.

Now Malone owns DirecTV. He could put NBC on DirecTV with its national footprint, and just sell the NBC-owned and operated TV stations. (DirecTV has had a deal to show NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” first on DirecTV before it aired on the network.)

And if Malone kept all or part of the movie studio he could fulfill a longtime dream of his: premiering major motion pictures on PPV TV instead of in movie theaters.

—Chuck Ross


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