Comcast is committed to improving its NBC Universal programming business, especially its broadcast network, and will spend big to do so. On Tuesday’s earnings call, Comcast COO and head of NBC Universal Steve Burke said the cable company would invest $300 million in the unit over the next year, including $200 million earmarked to turn around ailing flagship NBC.
Comcast has a formidable task ahead, as it tries to improve the programming mix at the broadcast network, and specifically to build a slate of primetime programming. To meet this challenge, the company is committed to invest $200 million over the next year. But Burke noted that throwing money at the problem will only go so far. Instead, NBC Universal needs to get better at actually coming up with interesting programming.
“The real key to turning around NBC is not necessarily the increase in investment. The real key is making better shows,” Burke said. The difference will come from who’s actually developing and picking the shows. Burke said that NBC Universal is developing the same number of pilots as last year, but new programming head Bob Greenblatt will be the one in charge of this year’s new slate of programs.
While Comcast has seen some early success with the first few weeks of new show The Voice, Burke said it could take years for a complete turnaround of NBC to take shape. That said, there’s a huge opportunity if Comcast can actually pull it off.
“You want to always sort of soften that optimism by the realization that it is a very tough business to turnaround and I think it is likely to take us a number of years to turn it around, but when we do, going from fourth to third would be hundreds of millions of dollars of positive swing in terms of EBITDA,” Burke said.
Improving NBC’s programming will not only help it compete against competitors like ABC and Fox in broadcast, but could also improve revenues through digital channels. With a growing number of online video aggregators like Netflix, Amazon bidding on content, having a strong slate of content beyond The Office and 30 Rock could give it a boost on new platforms as well.