05.14.2004 12:00 PM
It’s now NBC Universal

The last of America’s original big 3 television networks has officially morphed into an entertainment conglomerate. NBC is now NBC Universal — and it’s not just about television anymore. Broadcast TV integrates with cable, movies and theme parks in a new business model intent on blurring the lines between traditional media and entertainment.

Robert Wright, who ran the NBC network, is the chairman of NBC Universal, which is made up of seven cable channels, including USA and Bravo; 29 television stations; movie and television production studios; and five theme parks.

Wright insists there is nothing revolutionary about the merger, just the need to keep a focus on what each of the existing businesses always did.

Wright acknowledged that as many as 500 people might be laid off out of the 15,000 employees in the new company. However, he argued that the new company will not be fixated on the short-term and is ideally positioned to take advantage of coming changes in digital television, broadband service, and even television transmission on cellular phones.

The NBC Universal asset with perhaps the strongest potential is Universal’s vast library of 4000 films, which Wright deemed a “gold mine.” He said the company already is discussing ways to exploit that archive with cable operators and through such new distribution technologies as video-on-demand and digital video recorders. Launching new cable channels also is probable, with Wright joking at one point that a “Dick Wolf crime channel” was in the works.

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