GE's Immelt Delivers the Numbers on NBC Universal

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By Claire Atkinson, Business Editor, B&C

NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker was pretty candid in his "network-model-is-broken" interviews last week. The only thing lacking were the statistics to show how bad things have got.

This week General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt delivered those cold hard figures in the annual outlook investor meeting at 30 Rock, from Saturday Night Live’s Studio 8-H.

Immelt’s presentation featured a stunning PowerPoint slide. Earnings at the broadcast unit—which includes the stations as well as the network—were just $400 million in 2008. That’s down from $1.4 billion in 2005, a whopping 33 percent drop in the compound annual growth rate (CAGR), which tracks year-over-year growth over a period of time. And that’s before this recession really bites down.

The same slide, meanwhile, showed the cable unit’s comet-like performance. Over the same three year period, the unit boosted earnings by almost $1 billion, from $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion, a 20 % increase in the CAGR. Goodbye, old media; hello, dual revenue streams!

NBCU parent GE said Tuesday it would no longer give quarterly guidance on earnings. It’s easy to see why. Immelt added: "For people of my generation, this is the toughest environment we’ve ever seen."

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