NBC—awaiting government approval to assume the entertainment assets of Vivendi Universal—is preparing for a transformation that will make the Peacock network virtually unrecognizable to the pioneers of network television.
After completing the complex merger agreement last week, NBC chairman Robert C. Wright, who will become the chief executive of the new company, called the deal the most significant acquisition that NBC has ever made. It will add Universal’s movie and television studios, theme parks and three cable channels to NBC’s holdings— bringing a total value to the new enterprise estimated at $43 billion.
Wright told the New York Times that NBC Universal had high hopes of capitalizing on technologies now beginning to change the television business, including video-on-demand (VOD) programs and the multiplication of available channels through the digitizing of television signals.
Of special value to NBC is Universal’s enormous library of movies (more than 5,000) and television programs, which the network plans to sell across multiple platforms, including its expanded roster of cable channels. Those will now include USA, SciFi and Trio, digital broadcast channels and DVD media.
In 2006, when over-the-air digital broadcasting is slated to begin, Wright suggested that NBC Universal will have an opportunity to multicast its channel allotment, turning a single broadcast channel into five digital streams of programming. A typical NBC station, he said, could include full-time weather and traffic channels, a sneak preview channel and something on the order of a crime-and-punishment channel, which could be turned over to Dick Wolf, the creator of the “Law and Order” shows.
Wright specifically cited the sales of DVDs as a business he said was providing such a reliable stream of profits to motion picture companies that he had rescinded his previous reservations about the volatility of the movie business.
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