While NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) is barely more than a footnote among the varied holdings of General Electric, which owns 80 percent of the entertainment company, its losses did stick out, even as its parent's profits dropped 35 percent to $2.9 billion ($0.26 per share) on revenue of $38.4 billion. GE could point to some good news, as it beat Thomson Reuters' analyst consensus of $0.21 per share, TheStreet.com reported. There wasn't much help from NBCU on that front, as the media company's profits dropped 45 percent. As has become common during the last few quarters, cable continues to trend upward by "double digits," GE said, but the weak ad market and soft DVD sales made for a particularly tough period, as revenues slipped 2 percent.
As we reported after media companies posted their Q408 earnings, cable networks have been holding up relatively well in the recession, thanks to their subscription revenue and greater interest among advertisers in cable than broadcast TV. While it's too early to make industry-wide conclusions, NBCU's results suggest that that trend continued into Q1. NBCU's cable networks include Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC and USA Network.
By David Kaplan