With the stronger upfront market, NBC Universal opted to sell more inventory than a year ago, yielding an approximate 18% increase in combined broadcast and cable volume over 2009. Parent General Electric said Friday that half of the boost was due to selling a larger percentage of the inventory, and half the result of higher pricing.
With the NBC network still struggling in prime time, the upfront swell seems to offer more evidence of a robust upfront market, although GE did not break out what portion of the volume jump came from NBC. The company's cable networks continue their sturdy performance, and NBCU could have used that to drive sales for the network.
But the bottom-line impact of the upfront -- higher revenues in prime time still make profitability difficult because of high expenses -- will not be reflected until after December.
In the recent April-June period post-Vancouver Olympics, revenues at the broader NBC broadcast business were up 1% to $1.4 billion. That was 37% of NBCU total revenues in the quarter.
Still, broadcasting -- which includes the network and 10 local stations -- saw profit leap 6%. The stations saw a 25% revenue increase, but that was compared to a rocky quarter a year ago.
In cable, which accounted for one-third of NBCU revenues, networks such as USA and Bravo contributed to a 7% jump to $1.2 billion. Profit was also up 10%, GE said in an earnings call Friday.
Despite some opposition by independent networks and other interest groups, General Electric indicated that it did anticipate unexpected hurdles in receiving government approval to the proposed joint venture with Comcast.
Wachovia analyst Marci Ryvicker wrote that she expects the merger to close in the U.S. in early 2011, with few "concessions," such as divestitures or promises to launch new initiatives.
The merger received the blessing of the European Union this week, but that involved far fewer knotty issues.
Overall, NBCU had a revenue hike of 5% to $3.75 billion in the April-June quarter, with a 13% profit increase to $607 million.
"A pretty solid quarter," said GE CFO Keith Sherin.