Fixing NBC remains NBCUniversal's top priority, CEO Steve
Burke told an investors' conference Thursday.
Two years after Comcast acquired control of NBCU from GE,
Burke said, "We think we're ahead of where we thought we would be. We feel like
we've done a lot, made a lot of progress," adding, "there's still a lot more to
Burke said that with Comcast in charge, NBCU's focus has been
moved from short-term results to long-term growth in operating cash flow, as
well as taking advantage of the company's scale by putting its resource behind
initiatives like the Olympics, launching shows like The Voice or opening movies like The Lorax.
Burke says that NBC -- including the broadcast network, the
owned stations and the syndication business -- make "a little money, but not
very much." Its competitors generate between $700 million in OCF and $1.5
"There's no reason for that other than we need to make
better shows. We need to rebuild NBC brick by brick, which is the process that
we're going through right now," Burke said. I look at this as a tremendous
opportunity. If you have three competitors and doing as well as the worst of
the three adds close to a billion in OCF to your company, to me that's a big
But Burke said it's an opportunity "you can't grab in one
Burke said there has already been improvement at the station
group, which was making less than $150 million a year and this year will
generate more than $400 million. "This is a political year, this is an Olympics
year, but we've made real progress in fairly short order just by reinvesting in
local news and developing syndicated shows like Steve Harvey and really putting
our attention back to that broadcast business."
Burke also said that while NBCU's cable network generate about
80% of the company's cash flow, with eight channels each making over $200
million a year, "we don't think we've fully monetized those cable channels."
He said both affiliate fee revenue and ad rates should be
USA is the top-rated cable network, but "its affiliate fees
are substantially lower than other general entertainment cable channels like
TBS or TNT," Burke said. "If you're looking at advertising, our CPMs for our
big cable channels we think in some instances are 25% or 30% below others."
He said that networks including USA and Bravo "made real
progress during this past upfront."
Burke also said that contracts representing about 25% of
NBCU's cable carriage are up this year, giving the company a chance to raise
those rates as well. All of NBCU's carriage deals expire by 2016.
He added that NBC currently makes "essentially no money on
retransmission consent," compared to CBS which expects to earn more than $250
million in retrans this year.
"There's really no structural reason why NBC should make the
same amount of money as CBS makes on retransmission consent," Burke said.
Burke also saw an opportunity for improvement at Telemundo,
which makes less than $50 million a year, compared to Univision, which he
estimated makes about $900 million a year. "To me that's an opportunity," he
said. "We're both programming the same number of hours and the beauty is that
once you start to perform, once you start to get the ratings, there's no
increase variable cost at all."