Budget cuts loom for NBC Universal

Corporate parent Comcast will slash costs beyond 'The Tonight Show.'

By Jonathan Berr Aug 21, 2012 9:52AM

When it comes to NBC Universal, Comcast (CMCSA) is not going to throw good money after bad.

The Philadelphia media giant has recently slashed the budget of "The Tonight Show," resulting in host Jay Leno's taking a "huge" pay cut to help save jobs on his staff. Leno, though, will still earn as much as $25 million, so there is no need to hold benefits in honor of the square-jawed comedian.

Though it is easy to denounce Comcast for its penny pinching, the Los Angeles Times makes a convincing case that it isn't the case. It is amazing that it took this long for Comcast to swing the budgetary axe.

"Unofficially, people close to the show say the cuts were enacted because Leno was still producing his late-night show with the budget he was given two years ago for his ill-fated move into prime time," according to the newspaper. "The network has also increased the amount of money it spends on entertainment programming" on expensive shows such as "Smash" and "Revolution."

Indeed, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has shelled out $4.4 billion on a dubious bet in the Olympics through 2020 and billions more to secure the TV rights to the NFL since taking control of NBC Universal in 2011 from General Electric (GE).

NBC Universal had long been a drag on GE's earnings, and Comcast hasn't fared much better with it. During the last quarter, revenue was little changed at $5.5 billion, while NBC Universal's operating cash flow fell 15.4% to $982 million.

Figuring out where the budget ax may fall next is hard. But it's certain to drop. One vulnerable area may be Universal Studios, which, according to Box Office Mojo, ranks fourth in the box office this year, hurt by box office duds such as "Battleship" and "Tower Heist."

Two NBC franchises, "The Today Show" and "Meet the Press," are facing unprecedented pressure in the ratings. In July, viewership at rival "Good Morning America" had more viewers than "Today," both overall and in the key viewer demographic, for the first time in 17 years. Ratings at the venerable Sunday public affairs show recently hit a 20-year low.

The company's cable empire will be also be squeezed. Comcast owns an interest in the History Channel, home to huge hits such as "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers." Other channels, however, such as USA are seeing declines. The scale of the viewership drop-offs has caught many by surprise.

Though the New York Daily News reported earlier this year that CNBC insiders were "freaking out" over the business channel's low ratings, the network isn't in a budget-cutting mode. Officials recently announced a slate of seven new shows in production. The network is expected to generate $751 million in revenue this year on cash flow of $443 million versus year-earlier estimates of $706 million and $417 million, according to SNL Kagan. CNBC has had six years of record "financial performance," according to a source.
Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed companies. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.

Aug 21, 2012 5:41PM
Get rid of matt Lauer- that will save them a bundle!
Aug 21, 2012 5:38PM
NBC iis often called out by FOX as an OBAMA liberal channel...so i had to check them out with that in mind...they're like the OBAMA NETWORK...very similar to CNN and MSNBC....they're news is not really news....its more like liberal biased commentary...someone here compared them to the soviet media...so true.
Aug 21, 2012 5:38PM
HEY NBC!!!!!     No Body Cares........   Go away .Your programing sucks.Your News sucks.Your sister station MSLSD..(MSNBC)  sucks beyond words .
Aug 21, 2012 5:35PM
The sad thing is that you fools are complaining about media bias, but you're still on here commenting about it -- justifying even more of it because of all the attention you're giving to them.  How much is Leno and the others worth?  Who cares?  All of you damn well know if it were you then you'd be pining for as much as you could get as well.  Besides, last I checked it was their right to get as much as they could in this country -- it's not their fault there are others willing to give it to them.  And I'm sorry, but FOX being unbiased???  What's next, Stalin being a humanitarian?

If you want an unbiased news source, you'll have to go to the BBC, because that's about it for America these days.
Aug 21, 2012 5:17PM
Here's an idea!  Put the kartrashian show on NBC or MSNBC and it will finally GO AWAY since nobody is watching those channels!!!!  Also get rid of all those "wives" shows.  What man would admit he is married to those dirty mouthed whores.
Aug 21, 2012 5:09PM
I bet it's George Bush's fault for the layoffs at NBC. Now how will these laid off NBC workers feel when some of the 1.8 million undocumented workers end up working at the station for 1/10th what the original staff was making. I bet they will be pleased to support the Presidential decision on this..
Aug 21, 2012 5:05PM
NBC was never great and taken over by Communistcast was a major downfall so I hope they all fall off into the ocean and someone great takes over USA and say Ciao to all the losers at the Today Show and most others on that network.  BTW very nice of Leno to give up WAY too much money so his staff can stay on but really guys is this jerk worth 25 million????
Aug 21, 2012 4:46PM
What another pro Obummer network having to LAY OFF, sounds like a democrat thing to me.  How will they spin this into it's the republican fault.
Aug 21, 2012 4:39PM
The American people have grown weary with the biased major networks. Their delivery over the years was not to inform or entertain but to bend minds in a manner not unlike the processed used by the Soviet press agencies. The viewership has declined dramatically and, like typical control-freaks,  they would rather go out of business than deliver objective material that would please the general public. 
Aug 21, 2012 4:32PM
Obstinate ideologues go down without admitting any errors. Borderline behavior always blame others for failures. The current administration is another good example of that.
Aug 21, 2012 4:20PM
While many others have suggested the right way to save on $$$ at NBC, I have decided that Matt Lauer is the most expensive for the few brains given to the viewers.  His whims have dominated "Today" and its staff for too many years.  His wife should have carried through with her divorce threats years ago.  Matt Lauer is very narsisistic and too many people have worshipped at his designer shoes.  Al Roker's remark the other day was well done in that the Today show gets rid of people by throwing them under the bus.  The good shows are on CBS and if you want real news, go to FOX.
Aug 21, 2012 4:20PM

I used to start my day every morning by watching Today....after they canned Ann Curry in such a crappy way, I vowed to never watch again....and yes, I now watch GMA.  Also, it would be helpful to quit moving shows around....lose track of when your favorite is on and you end up just not watching it anymore.  It's not brain surgery....simplify...

Aug 21, 2012 4:11PM

Well Comcast would sure do a lot better if they'd stop taking AWAY key channels from us peons with merely  basic cable.

Used to watch that history channel they brag about ...NOW IT'S NOT THERE ANYMORE !

Aug 21, 2012 3:57PM
The news programming is owned by the corporations....the corporations only allow what they want the public to hear.   No more free press in the good ole US of A!
Aug 21, 2012 3:51PM

Because of the left leaning bias of NBC I did not watch any of the Olympics that they broadcast instead getting the results from the  internet or rival networks.  It is a shame that any major media has to sink so low to pander to a few politions that would take away the freedoms that we that served faithfully and with honor to perserve.  Although my service encompassed the Viet Nam era, and I served 22 years, we are still treated as baby killers by some of the media moguls.  My last tour in Viet Nam waters ended by our ship having to come into port after midnight to avoid the media enduced hysteria and yes NBC was at the forfront of spreading the hate for the servicemen............

NUff said...........





Aug 21, 2012 3:47PM
Get rid of the NBC news staff.  They provide nothing but useless, Socialists commentary.
Aug 21, 2012 3:42PM

I sure hope Jay Leno is going to be alright with just $25 mil to get by on.

What % of his income goes to charity? My guess it is less than goes to his car collection.

I sure don't see a great deal of criticicm about his income like I do with Mitt.

Aug 21, 2012 3:37PM

I agree with many of these comments; most Americans are sick of the media bias. Those investigating should be unbiased and report the TRUTH! Grow a pair and get your nose out of Obama's rear; it may earn NBC some respect and thus, more viewers.  As for the Hollywood actors; I couldn't care less about their opinion on politics, make your movie and shut up!

And to the news outlets, I don't give a darn about Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, the Kardashians, Lindsey Lohan or any other actor/performer; they are not newsworthy.

Aug 21, 2012 3:28PM
I like NBC, but I do not like what they have done with the Weather Channel.  I have watched the Weather Channel since its inception and NBC has made it the Video Channel.  I use to watch the Weather Channel for WEATHER!!!
Aug 21, 2012 3:19PM

NBC and all the other networks, and all of Hollywood actually, have become platforms for the liberal agenda that, ironically enough, is being supported by us, the consumers of products from companies advertising on these networks and the movie goers who flock to the theaters.  So, everybody, if you hate their guts and want them all to fail, you can help as well.


Edit.:  It's just like certain cancers.  One of the ways doctors try to treat them is to cut off nutrients to the cancerous cells so they die.  Well, consider the liberal agenda as a cancer too and just $tarve it!   

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