NBCU’s Earnings Drop 41%

GE chief financial officer Keith Sherin on Friday told investors that the upfront has been “very slow,” adding that NBC will “retain more inventory” than usual, holding out hope for a strong scatter market.

Typically, the networks sell between 75 percent and 80 percent of their prime time inventory during the upfront, but contracting viewership, a wobbly advertising market and the recession have put a squeeze on CPMs. As such, the Big Four are expected to hold back as much as 30 percent of their inventory this year.

NBC Universal’s second-quarter earnings plummeted 41 percent to $539 million, as revenue fell 8 percent to $3.57 billion. Adjusted earnings, which included a $95 million writedown of NBCU’s minority stake in Ion Media Networks and a one-time asset impairment charge of $8 million, were down 24 percent on the quarter.

Broadcast revenue fell 9 percent in the period, to $1.4 million. Cable was the lone bright spot, as revenue grew 3 percent to $1.2 million, while operating profit was up 7 percent to $595 million.

Shares of GE were down 6.05 percent, or 75 cents, to $11.65 in late-afternoon trading. Since hitting an 18-year low in March at $5.73, the stock price has rebounded by nearly 80 percent.

Overall, GE’s second-quarter revenue fell 17 percent to $39.1 billion.