Comcast officially took control of NBC Universal today, purchasing 51% of the company from GE and donating its family of cable networks to the cause as well. So now what to do for new NBCU President and CEO Steve Burke? Here are my thoughts on the items that should be on the top of the to-do list for the new NBC Universal:
Revitalize the Mothership – Even as broadcast television continues to be pummeled by the rise of the 500 channel cable-centric world, NBC is for better or for worse the centerpiece of the company which has fallen to fourth place among the major networks under the tenure of the recently ousted Jeff Zucker. Former Showtime boss Bob Greenblatt is in to try and revitalize primetime on NBC which routinely sees only the aging Biggest Loser and the Office crack the top 20 programs each week aside from football.
Use It or Lose It – NBC is not the only hurting piece of the NBC Universal pie. Universal Pictures is sixth in market share out of the big six studios, half of the current king Warner Brothers. Even with flops such as Land of the Lost and Funny People, Ron Meyer uses another of his 9 lives to see another day at the head of the studio. Comcast has vowed to invest in content at the studio, with this summer’s Cowboys and Aliens and next summer’s Battleship sure to test the resolve of the new stable cable owners with the ups and downs of the film industry. Of course a big loss or two might see Steve run for the hills and be done with this whole silver screen mess altogether. Also Universal’s deal with HBO expires shortly, so look out for the rumors that the Comcast purse strings are not drawn tight Starz might be a premium cable buy on the horizon.
Play Ball – For years, the nation has wondered if somebody, anybody was going to make a run at ESPN for sports television supremacy. Comcast has dipped its toe in the water before, rebranding its Outdoor Life Network to OLN and then Versus try and become a thorn in ESPN’s side. Failing however to win broadcast rights to the NFL or MLB put those plans on hold. Installing current NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol atop the entirety of the NBC Universal sports empire signals that perhaps its time for another try. Watch for a run at Pac 12 football when those rights go up for bid this year as well as the granddaddy of them all, the Olympics which all of the major players have been rattling sabers about this time around. With the broadcast and cable platform combo watch for the company to win at least one rights bid that they would not have this time last year.
Get Digital – The FCC required NBC Universal to relinquish their managerial control of Hulu which as the network as the threat from online platforms such as Netflix increases which ultimately be for the best. It will spur the company to create a better way to access all of its programing on the web, including its cable shows albeit not likely for free.