In the same call, executives said revenues in the current first quarter of 2007 would be essentially flat. Actually, they projected a 20% decline--largely due to comparisons versus a year ago, which included the Winter Olympics. Profits were projected between flat and up 5%.
But the Winter Olympics hardly performed strongly for NBCU, which said it lost $70 million on the games.
The loss may have contributed to a 6% drop in profits for NBCU last year, although revenue increased 10% to $16.2 billion.
The NBCU division, despite notable profit growth in the entertainment cable sector with networks such as USA and Bravo, also lumbered along in the just-completed fourth quarter. For the last three months of 2006, the NBCU unit posted only a 1% revenue increase to $4.2 billion, although profits were up 5% to $841 million.
The slow growth came despite NBC adding "Sunday Night Football"--which had strong ratings, but also carries a huge rights fee that can drag down profits.
But executives continued to be bullish going forward. "We love 'Heroes,'" Sherin said, referring to NBC's desperately needed prime-time hit, which has fueled optimism that the network can regain its footing. "Heroes" is a top-five hit in the key adult 18-to-49 demo.
And NBC is up approximately 16% in that key demo this season--although with football over, its margin could drop.