Land of the Lost

Another biggie. Comcast is negotiating to buy NBC Universal from GE. The scoop, via The Wrap:

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.

Healthy Global Domination

Calling it an “initiative” is gentler than calling it a “campaign” — less warlike, too. Considering the state of GE’s stock, this really is a global campaign in GE’s battle with the markets’ perception.

GE launched Healthymagination this week and I expect it to genuinely improve the quality of healthcare everywhere.

Under healthymagination, by 2015 GE will:

  • Invest $3 billion in research and development to launch at least 100 innovations that lower cost, increase access and improve quality by 15 percent. GE will also apply its expertise in services and its suite of performance improvement tools for impact in these areas. These actions will strengthen GE Healthcare’s business model.
  • Work with partners to focus innovations on four critical needs to start: accelerating healthcare information technology; target high-tech products to more affordable price points; broaden access to the underserved; and support consumer-driven health.
  • Expand its employee health efforts by creating new wellness and healthy worksite programs while keeping cost increases below the rate of inflation.
  • Increase the “value gap” between its health spend and GE Healthcare’s earnings to drive new value for GE shareholders.
  • Engage and report on its progress. GE will engage experts and leaders on policy and programs and create a GE Health Advisory Board, which will include former U.S. senators Bill Frist and Tom Daschle and other global healthcare leaders.

Healthymagination will draw on capabilities from across GE, including GE Healthcare, GE Capital, GE Water, NBC Universal, the GE Global Research Center as well as the GE Foundation, the philanthropic arm of GE.

Now, if we can just rehab the surly nurses’ behavior a local doctors’ offices…