NBC Goes Universal


Now that General Electric Co. and Vivendi Universal have finally worked out all of the kinks in their negotiations and signed a definitive agreement to combine their U.S. media operations, the latter will hand over its Vivendi Universal Entertainment division to GE’s NBC unit.

Five weeks ago, Vivendi agreed to stop entertaining any other suitors, but it had not actually signed a deal.

"This is a company that will be a significant content provider for many, many years to come," NBC chairman Bob Wright said.

The terms of the deal didn’t change materially over the course of the negotiations -- valuing VUE at $14 billion, letting Vivendi cash out part of its stake for $3.8 billion immediately after the deal closes, then leaving the company with 20% of the merged operation, to be called NBC Universal.

Wright said he hasn’t settled many of the details of combining the two companies, saying only that Universal Studios CEO Ron Meyer will remain in place and NBC’s Randy Falco will keep responsibility for ad sales, distribution, operations and anything "having to do with monetizing the programming."

In an interview, he wouldn’t say how he expects to structure the programming and marketing side of the combined broadcast and cable entertainment operations or discuss the futures of USA Network president Doug Herzog, Sci Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer or Universal Television CEO Michael Jackson.

"Those are all good people," Wright said. "We’ll have to figure that out."