The force of the global media meltdown is yet to show signs of abating. This morning, NBC Universal reported a 45% drop in first quarter profits.
The company which encompasses a movie studio, cable networks, broadcast network, stations and a theme park business, saw profits almost halved. Profit fell from $712 million in the first quarter last year, to $391 million for the quarter to March 31, 2009.
Revenue at NBC Universal was down just 2% to $3.524 billion, from $3.584 billion in the year ago quarter.
In a prepared statement Jeff Immelt, CEO of NBCU-parent General Electric, said, "NBC Universal had a tougher performance overall due to a soft advertising market and fewer major DVD releases compared to a year ago period."
The company noted that cable continued to deliver double digit growth.
NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker moved to reassure staff this morning with an email commentary pointing out that the steep profit decline had, "Nothing to do with the strength of our operations."
He said that the profit drop would be 15% had the company not had a number of one off exceptional items to contend with, including a $55 million write-down of the company's stake in broadcaster ION Media, along with additional costs associated with acquiring and broadcasting Super Bowl XLIII which resulted in a net loss, despite the record breaking audience. NBC Universal also released fewer DVD releases compared with the year ago period.
"Profit was actually down about 15% versus a year ago, in line with our expectations for the quarter," wrote Zucker. "Incredible strength at our cable networks division, both entertainment and news, offset a more difficult marketplace for our local television stations and softer attendance at our theme parks."