We've Got Hollywood Covered

Strong Q2 for NBCU; Profits Up 13%

Improved ratings, healthy ad sales, ”Get Him to the Greek“ helping entertainment division climb out of slump

Hey Comcast, good news about your new bauble.

Parent company General Electric may be moving toward the exit door, but as it prepares to hand over the reins at NBC Universal to its new owner Comcast, the entertainment division enjoyed one of its strongest quarters in some time.

In a nice change of pace for NBC Universal, the entertainment company’s profits were up 13 percent. Thanks to box office hit “Get Him to the Greek” and the bullish performance of cable channels such as Bravo and Oxygen, the media division was one of parent company General Electric’s strongest-performing segments.

GE’s sale of Comcast was agreed to last December, but still awaits U.S. antitrust approval.

Advertising sales and box office success saw NBCU's profit rise to $607 million, compared to $539 million in the same period last year. Quarterly revenue for the division climbed 5 percent to $3.75 billion.

Thanks to overall market improvements and a strong performance at the upfronts, ad sales at NBC were up 20 percent for the quarter. Still, the company’s cable business was the main source of the profit bump, with revenue for the constellation of cable stations up 7 percent and profits increasing by 10 percent.

It was a welcome change of pace for a company that suffered through a sluggish first quarter where earnings were down 49 percent. At the time, NBCU was suffering through a series of pricey film bombs such as “The Green Zone” and substantial losses sustained by the broadcast network’s 2010 Winter Olympics coverage. It also was stung by bad publicity surrounding the messy divorce from former ”Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien.

However, the company is on something of an upswing of late. Though it opened too late to factor into second-quarter earnings, the animated film “Despicable Me” opened to $56 million, and NBC’s “America's Got Talent” has been a ratings winner.

Another bonus, chronic underperformer Universal Studios saw theme park attendance increase 6 percent, helped in part by the high-profile openings of the new attractions the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and King Kong 3D.