Television

NBC, Vivendi Universal complete merger

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MUMBAI: NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment (VUE) have completed the creation of NBC Universal, a global media and entertainment enterprise with expected 2005 revenues of $15 billion.The announcement was made today by GE and Vivendi Universal, the parent companies, respectively, of NBC and VUE.

The formation of NBC Universal creates a media giant whose assets include brands such as television networks NBC, Telemundo, USA Network, Sci-Fi Channel, Bravo, Trio, CNBC, and MSNBC (jointly owned with Microsoft); film studio Universal Pictures; television production studios Universal Television and NBC Studios; a stations group comprising 29 NBC and Telemundo television stations; and interests in five theme parks including Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando.

International assets include the sale and distribution of video and DVD titles, television programming, and feature films in more than 200 countries; and distinctive television channels across Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

In completing the transaction, shareowners of VUE received $3.65 billion of cash consideration, of which Vivendi Universal received $3.4 billion. NBC Universal assumed $1.7 billion of debt, previously included in Vivendi Universal's financial statements. As a result, GE owns 80 per cent of NBC Universal and Vivendi Universal controls the remaining 20 per cent. Beginning in 2006, Vivendi Universal will have the right to monetize its ownership interest over time at fair market value.

Bob Wright, GE vice chairman and chairman and CEO of the new company, was quoted in a company release as saying: "As a highly integrated company with outstanding positions across a range of media, the new NBC Universal represents a tremendous growth opportunity for our viewers, advertisers, employees, and GE shareowners."Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO, said: "Closing NBC Universal is another important step in the transformation of GE. Strategically, this business will have an advantage in content, so valuable in the future of digital media."

Jean-Rene Fourtou, chairman and CEO of Vivendi Universal, said: "We are pleased to have an active and long-term ownership interest in NBC Universal, one of the world's most profitable and fastest-growing media companies. This transaction gives Vivendi Universal a 20 per cent ownership interest in NBC Universal and at the same time enables us to record a total net debt reduction of approximately $6 billion."

CORPORATE HIERARCHY

Ron Meyer, president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios, will be responsible for Universal Pictures, the Hollywood studio operations, and the company's theme parks. Randy Falco, president of the NBC Universal Television Networks Group, will lead the company's commercial and operational organizations. Jeff Zucker, president of the NBC Universal Television Group, will oversee all television programming for the new company, with the exception of Sports and Olympics. Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics, will assume responsibility for USA Network's sports programming, and Jay Ireland, president of NBC Universal Television Stations, will continue to lead the operations of the company's owned-and-operated stations group.

One fallout of the media merger of course is the expected loss of 300 jobs. The job cuts are seen as inevitable as there is bound to be some operational overlap in areas like cable TV. 

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