Broadcast Networks In The 'Negative' Still Looking For Quality

NBC -- the fourth-place network Jeff Zucker leaves behind -- isn't worth much, we are now told. It is actually a $600 million valuation drag on the NBC Universal company as a whole, according to one analyst.

That shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Zucker, departing president and chief executive officer, has been touting NBC U's cable networks as the big revenue and profit drivers for a number of years, with less emphasis on the big network.

Trouble is, the NBC brand means a lot to many people: TV producers, advertisers, and consumers.

Why the low valuation, then? There are past and future corporate and capital expenditures to consider. Remember, NBC is now way behind in TV development compared to other networks -- thanks, in part, to that little Jay Leno experiment.



Not surprisingly, the highest-valued NBC U asset is USA Network, at some $11.7 billion dollars. The other cable networks in the NBC Cable group are also strong performers: Syfy ($6.3 billion); Bravo ($2.6 billion); CNBC ($3.9 billion); and MSNBC ($2.8 billion). The company's overall worth -- minus capital and corporate expenditures -- is about $32.5 billion.

But don't think other big broadcast networks are snickering. The same analyst says ABC is worth just $1.2 billion -- that's less than half the value of Bravo! And for the likes of CW, forget about valuation. It still isn't profitable.

So what are we left with? Broadcast networks are still the biggest -- and more glamorous -- promotional and advertising vehicles around. TV viewership continues to rise. There is value there, as a content producer and promoter. CBS' "CSI" franchise wouldn't be a $1 billion global franchise if it weren't for the original airing of shows in the U.S.

Broadcast networks still hold onto their advantage as a critical big mass of consumers/viewers. The question is what digital path to choose in the coming years.

A big programming investment is what advertisers want to hear -- that networks are doing quality stuff. A number of TV ad-buying executives give NBC credit for trying to start up almost a dozen new series this year -- none that were reality shows.

But the word "quality" that networks talk about doesn't run side-by-side with offering cheap, 99-cent rental deals from Apple TV. Still, that's the future. The present valuation comes in the traditional ratings and ad revenue currency of the day.

NBC may be in the "negative" -- but some believe it it's only one big hit away from being back on top. That's the silver lining of smaller broadcast ratings and a tighter race among the big broadcast networks: a razor's edge advantage between incredible success and crushing out-of-work failure.

All of this can only be good news for marketers, still looking for as many strong big media alternatives as they can get. Bleed a little here and there -- but try to avoid the transfusion.

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