Comcast Chief: NBCU Earnings Torpedoed By 'Battleship' And 'Five-Year-Engagement'

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told investors this morning that financial results at NBCUniversal — his 51/49 joint venture with General Electric — could be “flat, slightly down” this quarter due to disappointments at Universal Studios. “This year we have an unfortunate large miss in Battleship and The Five-Year Engagement,” he said at the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference. Aside from the flops, the business is “where we expected.” But the results are head spinning following a strong Q1, with NBCU’s operating cash flow +34.3% with help from Safe House and Dr Seuss’ the Lorax. “We told everybody, don’t get used to that,” Roberts says. Elsewhere in NBCU, Roberts says that NBC’s “Bob Greenblatt is chipping away at a turnaround” for the broadcast network, while the cable networks “are great.” This summer’s Olympics in London probably won’t contribute to the bottom line, though. Comcast already accounted for the deal as an “unfavorable contract,” although Roberts says that “the Olympics haven’t begun yet so it’s all ratings dependent.” He hopes the games will “get to break even or better over the next decade” as NBCU increases showings on cable. Although Roberts initially said that there was no big surprise from the NBCU acquisition last year, he says he was startled to see “how steady the cash flow appears to be from the theme parks” with crowds flocking to Orlando’s The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter and the Transformers ride in Los Angeles. So will Comcast buy more programming assets? “We have a built in answer,” Roberts says. “We have to buy out GE over the next six years.” Indeed, he notes, the NBC balance sheet “is there to buy out GE.”

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