NBC Universal was created in 2004 from the acquisition of the Universal Studios movie and theme park business by television network NBC. For more than two decades, NBC had been a subsidiary of industrial giant General Electric, but disappointing performance by the merged business persuaded GE finally to cut its losses at the end of 2009. It agreed to transfer a controlling stake in the business to cable provider Comcast. That deal completed at the beginning of 2011, and Comcast bought out the remaining shares during 2013. NBC is still probably America's most celebrated television network but it rather lost its way between 2005 and 2014. Historically the #1 or #2 network by ratings as a result of such classic hit shows as Friends, Frasier, ER and The West Wing, NBC struggled for years to find new series to replace those long-running audience favourites. There has been a striking return to form under Comcast's ownership, with NBC rebounding from bottom place among the Big Four networks to #1 in the highly prized 18-49 adult demographic. For 2018/2019, NBC led that segment for the 3rd consecutive year, and was #2 in total viewers. 'Sunday Night Football' was once again the country's most watched regular show, with an average of 19.3m total viewers. (Sports is NBC's particular speciality: it also has exclusive live rights to the Olympics through 2032). Among the main broadcast networks NBC is also the leader by ratings in news coverage, with shows such as Today, Meet The Press and the Nightly News. Other top shows for the most recent season were 'This Is Us', 'Sunday Night Pre-Kick', 'Manifest', and 'AGT Champions' (all among the Top Ten), the trio of 'Chicago Fire', Chicago Med' and 'Chicago PD', and 'The Voice'. NBC Universal also controls Hispanic broadcast network Telemundo, as well as a large collection of cable strands including USA Network, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, Syfy, Oxygen and E! The division is set to launch its own OTT streaming service Peacock (after the famous NBC brand mascot) in 2020. It retains a 33% stake in the Hulu streaming service for the time being, but transferred full management control to Disney in 2019. Former Comcast COO Stephen Burke is CEO of NBC Universal. The business reported divisional revenues of $35.9bn in 2018, and EBITDA of $8.6bn. Cable Networks contributed the largest share of revenues - $11.8bn - just ahead of $11.4bn from broadcast networks.
Capsule checked 26th November 2019
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Historical profile information for NBC Universal
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd May 2019: CBS was once again America's most watched broadcaster by prime time viewers, its 11th consecutive #1 position, and had the top three scripted shows. 'Big Bang Theory' was - for the last time ever - the country's #1 most watched scripted show, with an average of 17.3m viewers. 'NCIS' and 'Big Bang' spin-off 'Young Sheldon' were the #2 and #3 shows respectively. However, total numbers continued to slide: CBS averaged a total of 8.9m viewers nightly for the season ending this week, down from 9.0m last year and 9.6m the year before. Indeed, all networks except Fox reported year-on-year declines. NBC was the #2 network overall (7.2m viewers), and led the prized 18-49 demographic for the 3rd straight year. Its 'Sunday Night Football' was the country's single most watched regular show at 19.3m viewers. ABC and Fox were in 3rd and 4th place again by total viewers; Fox tied CBS for the #2 position in 18-49ers.
Adbrands Daily Update 11th Jan 2019: After prolonged contractual negotiations lasting more than two months, NBC finally confirmed the departure of celebrity anchor Megyn Kelly from the network almost a year and a half before expiry of her contract. As a result, NBC agreed to pay the entire outstanding balance, a sum of around $30m.
Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Nov 2018: NBC's big bet on celebrity anchor Megyn Kelly has turned out to be a major flop. The channel poached Kelly from Fox News last year with three-year contract worth a total of $69m. Her first venture for the channel, a Sunday magazine show, was cancelled after two months because of poor viewing figures and reviews. Instead, Kelly was handed a weekday morning slot: 'Megyn Kelly Today'. That too suffered from lower ratings than the show it replaced, but the whole experiment came crashing down last Tuesday when, during a discussion about Halloween costumes, Kelly appeared to question why "blackface" make-up on white kids should be considered insensitive or even racist. There was an immediate backlash, both from the media industry in general but also from within NBC. Though Kelly made a full apology later the same day, and again on the next day's show, she has not been seen on-air since and NBC late announced the cancellation of her show. The network is said to be in negotiations with her over the termination of her contract.
Adbrands Weekly Update 24th May 2018: The US TV broadcast season wrapped up, with NBC the clear winner by viewers in the key 18-49 demographic for the second consecutive year, and close behind CBS as the overall #1 by total viewers. It was the tenth straight year that CBS has been America's most watched network, and the 15th time in 16 years. (Its only miss was in 2008 when it lost to Fox as a result of the huge success of 'American Idol'). Even so, CBS's average prime-time audience of 9.0m viewers was down by 7% on last year. NBC was close behind at 8.9m viewers, up 9%, helped by the triple whammy of the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, and big drama hit 'This Is Us'. ABC was in third place with 6.1m total viewers - the huge success of 'Roseanne' saved it from bottom, along with surprise hit 'The Good Doctor'. Fox trailed in 4th place on 4.9m. That number would have been even lower without hit drama '911'. Among 18-49 year-old adults, NBC was the clear leader with a 2.2 rating. All three other networks scored a 1.5 rating. NBC’s 'Sunday Night Football' was once again the top show in that key demo, averaging a 6.2 rating.
Adbrands Weekly Update 18th Apr 2018: With the traditional US broadcast season entering its final weeks, NBC is set to take top slot for the year with around 9.5m average primetime viewers. Key factors have been its coverage of both the Winter Olympics and the 2018 Super Bowl. CBS is currently in second place with 9.0m total average viewers, followed by ABC at 6.0m and Fox trailing on 5.2m. NBC also leads in the prized 18-49 demographic, with CBS second, and ABC and Fox tied for third.
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