Despite strong performances from several of its cable networks, NBC Universal saw its profits fall 41 percent in the second quarter as advertising sales continue to suffer. Revenue also dipped 8 percent to $3.5 billion.
And two of the company’s largest divisions — NBC itself and Universal Pictures — both struggled as fewer “important” DVD releases limited theatrical profits.
But it wasn’t all bad news. Although the broadcast channel struggled, cable networks USA, Oxygen, Bravo, MSNBC and CNBC all continued to grow. USA remained the country’s top-rated cable network while MSNBC and CNBC saw profits rise 8 and 7 percent respectively.
The subsidiary also faired better than its parent company General Electric, which saw a 49 percent decline in profits.
GE’s chief financial officer Keith Sherin said the economic downturn has slowed advertising this year and that upfront sales for the fall season are slow as well.
However, both Sherin and GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt noted that inflated 2008 numbers sharpened the decrease in profits. Last year, NBC Uni sold the Sundance Channel to Cablevision for almost $500 million and took a large write-down on its investment in Ion Media.
NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker also downplayed the second-quarter struggles, adding that things seemed to be improving in the third quarter.
One change the company hopes will boost its performance is its recent late-night shakeup, which saw Conan O’Brien take over the “Tonight Show” from Jay Leno. Taking O’Brien’s spot is SNL vet Jimmy Fallon.
“Tonight” has lost to “The Late Show with David Letterman” in total viewers two of the last three weeks, but O’Brien is besting Letterman in the important 18 to 49-year-old demographic.
What remains to be seen are the results from NBC’s biggest gamble of all: replacing its 10 p.m. drama scheduling with Jay Leno five nights a week.