The reorganization will only minimally affect NBC, which has been and will remain a division of the Fairfield, Conn.-based multinational. Media and entertainment represent only a part of its business. It's a world leader in health care systems, jet engines, and power plants, among other things. GE forecasts about $14 billion in revenues from NBC Universal in 2005, which places it below projections for other GE divisions such as finance ($41 billion), health care technology ($17 billion), and transportation technology ($15 billion).
Thursday's reorganization cuts more of GE's headquarters functions, although the size and scope weren't announced. But in a letter sent Thursday to GE employees, GE Chairman Jeff Immelt said the idea was to organize the company around growth drivers, which include NBC Universal.
"We achieve real improvements in speed and execution when we put more resources around markets and less in headquarters," Immelt wrote.
The announcement didn't provide any earth-shaking revelations about NBC, which will continue to be run by Bob Wright at NBC's headquarters in New York City. GE is based about 40 miles away in Fairfield, Conn.
A GE spokesman said it was premature to discuss any changes in headcount, either at NBC or the rest of GE.
"As for today, there's no change at NBC as a result of the organization changes," the spokesman told MediaDailyNews.
At the same time, GE is getting ready for a merger with Vivendi Universal Entertainment, which will create a much larger NBC that will have leadership in broadcast and cable networks as well as television and movie production, and even a set of theme parks. The deal, which still must clear regulators in the United States and Europe, is expected to close in the second quarter, a Vivendi Universal executive said.
The combined company will move NBC Universal away from the mostly ad-supported revenue base of NBC into a mixture of content-creation units and ad support. While NBC is now 95 percent ad-supported, about 53 percent of NBC Universal's revenues will come from advertising.
Wright will lead the new division, and an as-yet-undetermined number of executives from Vivendi Universal will also join the company. Vivendi Universal also owns three cable networks: USA, Sci Fi Channel, and Trio.
"We have focused over the last year, year-and-a-half, in strengthening NBC and making the franchise stronger," the GE spokesman said. "And now, with the opportunity to acquire Vivendi Universal Entertainment, we have the opportunity to build a tremendous business in digital media."