Rumor de jour: Comcast wants in on NBC Universal

Thu, 10/01/2009 - 8:30am
Mike Robuck

The hot rumor making the rounds is that Comcast is in talks with General Electric to buy a piece, or all, of NBC Universal.

Reuters, which has been out front on the story, said in an article this morning that sources confirmed the negotiations between Comcast and General Electric. NBC Universal owns cable channels Bravo, USA, CNBC and MSNBC, and it also has a stake in Hulu.

If the negotiations pan out for either partial or complete ownership of NBC Universal by Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator could end up with a stake in Hulu, which has been a thorn in cable operators’ sides with its over-the-top video service that competes with Comcast’s On Demand Online offering to its subscribers.

Reuters reported that the talks with Comcast are one part of a larger range of options that GE is considering for its 80 percent stake in NBC Universal. Vivendi SA is reportedly mulling the sale of its 20 percent stake in NBC Universal. Reuters said other options include a public sale of Vivendi’s chunk, or a deal with another media company or private equity group.

Reuters said it was significant that Comcast denied a Web report Wednesday night that said it had already struck a deal for NBC Universal because Comcast normally doesn’t comment on rumors.

Reuters quoted Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett’s take that if Comcast ended up with Vivendi’s 20 percent share “it would include all of the regulatory burdens but none of the benefits of control.”

Both Comcast and GE saw their shares slip on the New York Stock Exchange this morning.

More Broadband Direct 10/01/09:
•  Rumor de jour: Comcast wants in on NBC Universal
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•  Cisco forks out $3B for video conferencing co.
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