What Would NBC Look Like If It Were On Its Own?
What would the company look like?
-- A bit more like CBS, with the added benefit of a studio and a lot of cable networks.
-- A bit less like News Corp., without News Corp's bigger international media networks and operations and all those newspapers.
-- A bit more like Walt Disney, but without theme parks, a big sports cable operation in ESPN, and all those Disney licensing activities.
What General Electric provided for NBC down through the years was the veil of a much larger company -- one that in better times could easily carry whatever ups or downs NBC was going through.
But all that has changed. GE itself has had a rocky period because of the recession -- especially in light of its GE Capital finance operation.
Industry followers have long groaned that General Electric's light bulbs, jet engines, and other manufacturing businesses never really meshed well with NBC's entertainment businesses. They hoped oneday NBC would be unleashed.
Vivendi's considering selling its 20% stake in NBC couldn't come at a worst time for General Electric -- having to make a $4 billion acquisition with money it doesn't really have.
Looking at NBC, as an independent media company, of course, makes it more vulnerable to -- what else? -- a possible takeover.
Who would buy NBC? Standing in the way (anti-trust issues aside) is a price tag of perhaps around $21 billion. Private equity concerns could make a play. So could some media companies.
Time Warner would be a likely choice, or maybe Sony Corp. In the past, those media companies' big needs were for a full-fledged broadcast network and TV stations, which NBC brings (Time Warner, along with CBS, owns half of the mini-network CW.)
Is that still important to them now? It is -- especially when it comes the content creation of entertainment. Perhaps a buyer might break NBC up into smaller pieces.
The high profile NBC television network has been revolutionary: steering clear of big glitzy upfront TV presentations, pushing for Hulu.com, and especially, instituting the cost cutting move of running "The Jay Leno Show" five nights a week in prime time.
A bigger revolution will come from what the company looks like next.