When A Television Deal Is Not Yet A Deal

It's been a year since Comcast said it had reached a deal to take over as a majority owner of NBC Universal. But Comcast now says it needs a bit more time.  

No surprises there. Comcast knew this was going to be a tough slog. But that hasn't stopped the critics -- or more than a few people pissed off that incoming NBC Universal president/CEO Steve Burke has already sketched out who his management team would be, all before the deal was done.

To some that is putting the cart before the horse. Comcast should have taken care of this by calling the structure a "work in progress." Perhaps it shouldn't have said anything at all -- at least publicly.

But that kind of activity goes on all the time. Deals in Hollywood and Madison Ave can be virtually "done"; others are just plain "overdone." Many executives believe the Comcast-NBC deal will, of course, be completed eventually -- with some considerations or protections for, say, competing regional sports networks that don't want the short stick when dealing with Comcast, the cable operator.



All this makes deal-sense in the TV advertising world. Virtually the entire upfront negotiations are not pegged to one single bit of paper. Then come late August/early September, upfront "holds" go to "orders" -- where someone is sure to see a piece of paper crossing their desks to make sure they got what they wanted.

Comcast does have to make some concessions in asking for a 90-day extension: The existing NBC hierarchy of Jeff Zucker, president/CEO of NBC Universal and Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, needs to stay the same until the deal has officially closed.

Until then, it's business as usual.

NBC is still developing TV shows, selling TV advertising time, and marketing programming. Problem is, people need to keep moving.

So postponing the deal means a further delay of a possible turnaround at NBC. Burke and incoming entertainment president Robert Greenblatt can pretty much write off most of next season, since programming decisions from a previous administration will be a part of their near-term plans.

Completed entertainment/advertising/TV deals do take place. The evidence is there. Just take a look at all those lawsuits.

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