Comcast Eying Part of, Not All, NBCU, Sources

Comcast shares on Oct. 2 bounced back from Thursday’s 7.2 percent decline, as Wall Street was abuzz about the cable giant’s streamlined play for a stake in NBC Universal.

While early reports had Comcast angling for the entire NBCU entertainment portfolio, sources said the cable giant is less interested in a vertical integration than a commingling of content assets.

According to insiders, Comcast is looking to pony up around $6 billion for a 51 percent chunk of NBCU’s content, which includes the NBC network and several high-performing cable channels (USA Network, Bravo, MSNBC, etc.). The operator would toss in its own nets (E!, G4, Golf Channel, etc.), forming a new standalone programming unit, which would allow Comcast to sidestep regulatory hurdles. (It’s unclear what’s in store for the NBC station group, the element likely to draw the most heat from the feds.) BofA-Merrill Lynch said the deal would give Comcast “scale in content without breaking the bank.”

Not everyone cheered the move. “For Comcast, we continue to view the deal as a net negative, even if it now appears less unattractive than the worst-case scenario of an outright acquisition,” said Craig Moffett, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst.

On Oct. 1, NBCU CEO Jeff Zucker sent employees a memo suggesting that little would take place until Vivendi is ready to sell its 20 percent stake. “They have not yet made us aware of any final decisions,” Zucker wrote. “Should they choose to exit, there are a number of possible things that could happen.”