Comcast, the nation’s leading provider of cable, entertainment and communications products and services, is in talks to buy the entertainment giant NBC-Universal from General Electric, according to knowledgeable individuals.
Deal points were hammered out at a meeting among bankers for both sides in New York on Tuesday, executives familiar with the meeting said.
Two individuals informed about the meeting said that a deal had already been completed at a purchase price of $35 billion.
A spokeswoman for NBC-Universal had no comment. Comcast responded with this statement: “While we do not normally comment on M&A rumors, the report that Comcast has a deal to purchase NBC Universal is inaccurate.”
NBC-Universal has been believed to be in play for months, although GE has publicly denied any intention of selling the unit. In recent weeks, minority stakeholder Vivendi has been apparently preparing to exercise its right to sell 20 percent of the entertainment company in an IPO.
Comcast has been among those rumored to be interested in buying that equity.
But the Tuesday meeting was about a much larger gambit, according to the knowledgeable individuals. The NBC-Universal division of GE, a premium content company, is a likely fit for the cable giant with its massive distribution pipeline. That is especially the case when the division’s potential price tag has dropped significantly from a year ago.
Comcast’s market cap is $48.44 billion. NBC-Universal has fallen in value to an estimated $35 billion in value, from about $55 billion a year ago.
Other suitors have been rumored to be interested in NBC-Universal, including Time Warner. Time Warner has denied any interest in a purchase.
The talks come after a rough summer for Universal Pictures, which had one of the worst box office runs in the studio’s recent past. And NBC has remained mired in fourth place among broadcast networks.
The message transmitted at a tense board meeting in New York in July — where top NBC-Universal executives including Jeff Zucker, Ron Meyer, Marc Shmuger and David Linde all met with GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt and Vivendi representatives — was that something had better change soon.
Earnings at the studio have been down drastically from last year for the second quarter in a row. Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” only brought in $60 million worldwide, while “Bruno” brought in the same amount domestically. On the Will Ferrell comedy “Land of the Lost,” Universal lost some $40 million.
Love this Today Show clip from a few months ago.