It’s been a disappointing upfront ad-sales season for most major networks, but NBCUniversal chief Steve Burke prefers to see this glass as half full: His broadcast and cable networks had a “great upfront” considering that it was “a challenging time for the industry,” he told analysts this morning in a call to discuss Q2 earnings.
The volume of sales increased, and prices for each viewer reached by NBC and the cable networks “were right at the top.” That narrowed the gap he has long identified between NBC’s pricing vs. its rivals.
Although the film studio was the star of Q2, Burke urged investors to pay attention to Universal’s theme parks. “We see this as a major growth driver for the company” over the next 20 years. Although it currently accounts for as much as 25% of cash flow, “there are a lot of green lights as you look down the highway.”
Following the success of The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley in Orlando, Comcast plans to bring a similar attraction to the Hollywood park next spring. That will result in “a sea change for how people think of that park in the Los Angeles market.” Universal will introduce a King Kong attraction next year in Orlando, and a water park in 2017. It’s also building on-site hotels which “keep people longer.”
Orlando shows that the formula works: Attendance there grew 21% in Q2, Burke says.
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He adds that “we haven’t even talked about China or other parts of the world” where Universal sees other opportunities to expand.
On other matters, Comcast Cable chief Neil Smit says he isn’t worried about AT&T’s pending acquisition of DirecTV. The company has already competed with both “for a number of years.”
CEO Brian Roberts also defended Stream — the recently announced $15 a month streaming video service for Xfinity broadband customers offering them live TV from about a dozen networks, including the major broadcast networks, plus HBO. It launches soon in Boston and will be offered across the company footprint by early next year.
It won’t be a “meaningful” contributor to company finances “in the near future,” he says — suggesting it won’t cannibalize the core cable business. The company considers it an extension of a service it offers college students that makes it “faster and easier to introduce people to a relationship with us” and then “upsell in a seamless, frictionless way.”
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