NBC Universal (US)

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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 after 2005. Historically the #1 or #2 network by ratings as a result of hit shows such as Friends, 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. NBC Universal also controls a number of regional and cable stations which meshed well with Comcast's existing portfolio.

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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

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.

Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Nov 2017: Another big beast in the US media forest has been felled by accusations of sexual harassment. NBC News' long-serving star anchor Matt Lauer has been fired as a result of a complaint against him of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the workplace. NBC News president Andy Lack said in a statement that it was the first complaint about Mr Lauer's behaviour in more than 20 years he has worked for the channel but that the company was "also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident". Following Lauer's dismissal, two further complaints were filed against him by different co-workers. His Today Show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie was close to tears when she announced Lauer's firing on-air only a few hours after hearing about it. "All we can say is we are heartbroken; I am heartbroken..." but added. "How can you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?"

Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Sep 2017: As the New York Times pointed out, "It was inevitable that a streaming service would win an Emmy for best drama at some point. But no one expected Hulu to get there first." Despite a huge marketing campaign, Netflix was pipped to the post in almost all of the major categories in the US Emmy Awards. The most prestigious drama awards were mostly scooped by Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, while NBC's Saturday Night Live cleaned up in comedy, winning the prize for best variety sketch series for the first time in two decades. As usual, though, HBO took home the most awards overall, its 16th such sweep. Including creative arts categories not covered in the telecast, HBO took home 29 trophies, including for Veep, Big Little Lies and The Night Of. Netflix was by no means empty-handed at 20, including important nods for Black Mirror and The Crown. The big losers were once again the broadcast networks. Only NBC collected awards in the main awards show; there were none for telecast host CBS, ABC or Fox. That gradual shift of the Emmys (like the Oscars before them) away from mass-market entertainment towards niche or "arthouse" content has also prompted a significant decline in viewers of the awards show. This year's telecast attracted a record low of 3.22m adults in the 18-49 demo, down 10% on last year.

Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Jun 2017: The US TV season officially ended last week, crowning CBS and NBC as the top two networks. CBS was the most watched by total viewers for the 9th consecutive year, and for the 14th time out of the past 15 seasons. NBC was the leader in primetime for the third time in four years, mainly as a result of its dominance in sports. Its Sunday Night Football was the most watched show for the 6th consecutive season, with an average of 19.75m total viewers. CBS's The Big Bang Theory celebrated its 10th season as the most watched scripted show yet again, with an extraordinary 18.99m viewers. CBS averaged a total 9.6m viewers across the season as a whole, ahead of NBC on 8.1m. ABC was third with 6.2m while Fox came bottom with 5.8m. However, the Murdoch-controlled network was the #2 network among the 18-49 age group, behind NBC. CBS and ABC took 3rd and 4th place.


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Background

Free for all users | see full profile for current activities: The National Broadcasting Company was established in 1926 by Radio Corporation of America, then a division of General Electric. RCA was primarily a manufacturer of commercial wireless radio sets, which had become one of the fastest-selling products of the decade. NBC was formed to produce professional programming for this rapidly growing audience. A year later, the company set up a sister network alongside NBC, under the name The Blue Network, to provide an alternative choice of programming. However in 1930, as a result of an anti-trust ruling from the US government, GE was obliged to sell off its stake in RCA. 

Under the control of mogul David Sarnoff, the newly independent company spent much of the 1930s exploring the television market, launching the first regular broadcasting service in 1939. However the government became increasingly concerned by NBC's dominance in this fast-growing market, and stepped in again, forcing RCA to sell off one of its two networks in 1943. The Blue Network was spun off as an entirely separate business, and was renamed the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), now part of Disney.

The 1950s proved boom years for the television industry, as it finally became a mass medium, cracking the hold of the cinema on family audiences. Advertising revenues soared. But after leading the way throughout the 1950s and 1960s, RCA's performance slumped during the 1970s as its NBC network was overtaken in ratings by rivals CBS and ABC. In the 1980s the network reinvented itself with a string of hit series including Miami Vice, Cheers and The Cosby Show. As a result of a change of regulations, General Electric was allowed to reacquire RCA in 1986, but as a result of continuing poor performance in the company's radio network, the RCA name and its radio stations were sold two years later. NBC experienced another slump in the early 1990s, but once again rebounded mid-decade with Seinfeld, Frasier, Friends and ER. Also in the 1990s, NBC established cable networks CNBC and MSNBC, and later took stakes in internet services Snap.com and CNET. However NBC Internet, a separate division spun off in 1999 to develop online content, was one of the first online businesses to suffer from the digital downturn, and was ultimately absorbed back into the main network in 2001.

Towards the end of 2001, NBC announced it would acquire US-based Hispanic broadcaster Telemundo Communications for $2.7bn in a mix of cash and stock. The following year the company achieved a long-cherished ambition, acquiring an arts and entertainment channel which it could use for programming considered too edgy or adult for its main network. It acquired the Bravo channel from Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision, for around $1.25bn in cash and shares. 

In 2003, the network extended its hold over broadcasting of the Olympics, agreeing a $2.2bn bid for rights to the Winter Olympics in 2010, and the Summer Olympics 2012. The fee was around 30% higher than the sum it agreed for the 2006/2008 games. But the group also faced the difficult task of finding replacements for its long-running hit comedy shows Friends and Frasier, both of which aired their final shows in 2004. NBC responded by broadening its offering, agreeing a deal to acquire the substantial film, cable and theme park assets formerly known as Vivendi Universal Entertainment. After several weeks of exclusive negotiations, the $14bn deal to acquire Universal was confirmed in October 2003, and closed the following May. 

Long-serving chairman-CEO Bob Wright retired in February 2007 and was replaced by Jeff Zucker, formerly CEO of NBC Universal Television Group. Zucker held that role until the takeover by Comcast. See full profile for current activities


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