For weeks now I’ve been hearing buzz that GE chairman Jeff Immelt has cut a deal with Jeff Zucker so he’ll stay chief of NBC Universal, where he’s spent his entire career, in the event of a sale. “That this guy keeps failing upward is an extraordinary thing,” one of my sources marveled. Now Bloomberg is quoting “three people with knowledge of the situation” that Comcast’s Brian Robert and Steve Burke are leaning toward keeping the NBC Universal chief and his management team if it gains control of the GE unit. But any sale depends on Vivendi voting at an October 14th board meeting to sell the 20% NBCU stake. Gee, Brian/Steve are supposed to be smart guys. So why do people lose 100 IQ points when they come anywhere near NBCU?
Meanwhile, there’s new insight into why Comcast may want NBCU. A recent report from SNL Kagan projects that cable TV operators like Comcast will lose subscribers to DirecTV and Dish and AT&T and Verizon that offer video along with their phone and online services. Even Comcast admits growth is slowing because of “increased competition.” And online is a rival: Kagan says the number of people getting their TV from the Internet will double by 2019. As BusinessWeek points out, “you can imagine that Comcast wants to get its hands on a major content creator like NBC and its Hulu before that happens.”