Vivendi deal will allow NBC to showcase its media assets

Robert C. Wright, the man in line to be the chief executive of the next new media conglomerate—NBC Universal—predicts his combined bonanza of media assets will lead to a fundamental change in the broadcast television business.

Assuming favorable regulatory approval, NBC will soon acquire Universal’s movie and television studios, theme parks and three cable channels (USA, SciFi and Trio). The combined value of the new company is estimated to be $43 billion.

For Wright, currently NBC’s chairman, it’s a “smart strategic deal” that will eventually allow him to reinvent the business model for over-the-air broadcasting. In an interview with the New York Times, Wright said he has high hopes of capitalizing on technologies now beginning to change the television business, including video-on-demand (VOD) and the multiplication of available channels through the digitizing of television signals.

Of special value to NBC, he said, is Universal’s enormous library of movies (more than 5,000) and television programs, which NBC plans to sell across multiple platforms, including cable television, digital terrestrial television and as DVD packaged media.

Wright suggested that in 2006, when the DTV broadcaster will have an opportunity to turn one channel into five digital streams of programming, a typical NBC station could include full-time weather and traffic channels, a sneak preview channel and something on the order of a crime-and-punishment channel, which could be turned over to Dick Wolf, the creator of the NBC’s Law and Order shows.

Wright cited the robust sales of DVDs as providing such a reliable stream of profits to motion picture companies that he has rescinded his previous reservations about the volatility of the movie business. “Volatility in the movie business is really not a major concern,” Wright said. “We have a lot of volatility in our own businesses.”

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