NBCUniversal (colloquially referred to as NBCU or NBCUni and formerly written as NBC Universal) is an American multinational media conglomerate. Headquartered in Rockefeller Plaza's Comcast Building (formerly the GE Building) in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, the company is one of two successor companies to MCA Inc. (Music Corporation of America), the other being Vivendi through its subsidiary Universal Music Group.
NBCUniversal is primarily involved in the media and entertainment industries; among its most significant divisions are NBC, one of the United States' "Big Three" television networks, and the major film studio Universal Studios. It has a significant presence in broadcasting through a portfolio of domestic and international properties, including terrestrial and pay television outlets. Via the Universal Parks & Resorts division, the company is also the third-largest operator of amusement parks in the world.
NBC Universal was formed on May 12, 2004 by the merger of General Electric's National Broadcasting Company with Vivendi's Vivendi Universal Entertainment. As of March 19, 2013, it is wholly owned by Comcast who bought GE's ownership stake.
NBC and Universal Television had a long-standing partnership dating back to 1950, when Universal Television's earliest ancestor, Revue Studios, produced a number of shows for NBC (although they would have some hits on the other networks as well). This partnership continued throughout a number of name changes and changes of ownership.
NBC Universal Television has its modern roots in a series of expansions undertaken by NBC. In the late 1980s, NBC began pursuing a strategy of diversification, including the formation of two NBC-owned cable-television networks: CNBC and America's Talking. NBC also had partial ownership of several regional sports channels and other cable channels such as American Movie Classics and Court TV (until 2007).
In 1995, NBC began operating NBC Desktop Video, a financial news service that delivered live video to personal computers. The following year, NBC announced an agreement with Microsoft to create an all-news cable television channel, MSNBC (using its subscriber base from America's Talking network). A separate joint venture with Microsoft included establishing a news website, MSNBC.com (now NBCNews.com).
In 1998, NBC partnered with Dow Jones & Co. The two companies combined their financial news channels outside the US. The new networks included NBC Europe, CNBC Europe, NBC Asia, CNBC Asia, NBC Africa, and CNBC Africa.
In 2003, amid a major financial crisis caused by over-expansion, Universal Studios' parent company, Vivendi Universal Entertainment (a division of Vivendi), decided to sell an 80% stake to NBC's parent company, General Electric. The sale and resulting merger formed NBC Universal. The new company was 80% owned by GE, and 20% owned by Vivendi. The joint venture encompassed Vivendi's US film interests (such as Universal Studios), production and distribution units, as well as five theme parks, cable television channels including USA Network, Sci-Fi Channel, the defunct Trio, Cloo (formerly Sleuth), as well as 50% stakes in Canal+ and StudioCanal (with Vivendi owning the rest). Universal Music Group was not included in the deal and is not part of NBC Universal.
On August 2, 2004, the television divisions of NBC and Universal Television were combined to form NBC Universal Television. NBC Studios series bought into the company include the NBC dramas Las Vegas (with DreamWorks SKG), Crossing Jordan, and American Dreams. Universal Network Television bought the Law & Order franchise and The District—in fact, Universal Network Television had co-produced American Dreams with NBC before the merger. Entertainment shows produced by the new group include The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Last Call with Carson Daly, and Saturday Night Live.
The formation of NBC Universal saw the establishment of NBC Universal Cable, which oversees the distribution, marketing, and advertisement sales for thirteen channels (Bravo, Bravo HD+ (eventually renamed Universal HD), Chiller, CNBC, CNBC World, MSNBC, NBC Universo, Syfy, ShopNBC (which became ShopHQ after NBCUniversal sold its stake in the network), Telemundo, Cloo, USA Network and the Olympic Games on cable). NBC Universal Cable also manages the company's investments in The Weather Channel and TiVo. The cable division also used to operate NBC Weather Plus until 2008. It also owned a 50% stake in Canal+ and also owned a 15% stake in A+E Networks until 2012.
In the early 1990s, NBC began its expansion throughout Europe by creating CNBC Europe and its long-time successful NBC Europe Superstation by broadcasting NBC Giga throughout Germany and the rest of the European Union. NBC Europe helped to develop the Leipzig-based Games Convention, the largest European video game exposition with more than 100,000 visitors each year.
In 2005, NBC Universal joined HANA, the High-Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance to help establish standards in consumer electronics interoperability. Later that year, NBC announced a partnership with Apple Computer to offer shows from all the NBC Universal TV networks on Apple's iTunes Store.
In January 2006, NBC Universal launched a new cable channel, Sleuth. The channel's programming dedicated to mystery/crime genre. Sleuth Network's initial slogan was "Mystery. Crime. All The Time." In early 2008, the channel unveiled a new slogan, "Get Clued In." On August 15, 2011, Sleuth rebranded as Cloo, in order to be able to trademark and own the name, as NBCUniversal cannot so with the name Clue (as Hasbro owns the rights to it with their board game Clue). NBCUniversal also explained that another reason for the name change was the word "Sleuth" is too common for search engines (a Google search brings up over 9,530,000 results).
One year later after Sleuth's debut, NBC Universal announced that the company would launch a horror-themed cable channel, Chiller, on March 1, 2007. At launch Chiller would be available exclusively on DIRECTV. The network would feature films like Psycho and The Shining and TV series that include Twin Peaks, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Freddy's Nightmares, Friday the 13th: The Series, War of the Worlds and Tales from the Crypt. NBC Universal also stated that, aside from the content in their own vaults, Chiller will feature content from other studios as well. In 2009, Chiller unveiled a new slogan, "scary good". This replaced the channel's previous slogan "Dare To Watch".
On June 14, 2007, NBC Universal Television Studio was renamed Universal Media Studios. The company explained that the reason for the name change was because "the new name fully describes the company's mission to be the premier content provider for television and digital platforms, spanning all television dayparts and creative genres."
In August 2007, NBC Universal purchased Sparrowhawk Media Group and renamed it NBC Universal Global Networks. This acquisition gave NBC Universal all Hallmark channels outside the United States, plus the British channels Diva TV, Movies 24, Hallmark Channel and KidsCo. Later that fall, the company also acquired the Oxygen network in a separate $925 million deal. The sale was completed one month later.
In the summer of 2008, NBC Universal, Blackstone Group and Bain Capital announced their intentions to buy The Weather Channel from Landmark Communications. The deal closed on September 12, 2008. Shortly after the acquisition completed, NBC announced that their existing TV weather network, NBC Weather Plus, would be shut down by December 31, 2008.
On November 12, 2008, NBC Universal acquired 80.1% of Geneon Entertainment from Dentsu in Japan, merging it with Universal Pictures International Entertainment to form a new company, Geneon Universal Entertainment Japan.
On March 16, 2009, NBC Universal-owned cable channel Sci Fi announced that it would be changing its name to Syfy, replacing a generic term with a proprietary brand name that can be trademarked. The rebranding and name change took place on July 7, 2009.
On August 27, 2009, A&E Television Networks (A&E) merged with Lifetime Entertainment Services (Lifetime), giving NBC Universal an equal share of both Lifetime and A&E with The Walt Disney Company and Hearst.
On October 20, 2010, NBC Universal-owned horror/suspense-themed cable channel Chiller announced a major rebranding campaign incorporating a new logo and on-air look that launched on Wednesday, October 27, 2010. Syfy and Chiller President Dave Howe said, "We have very ambitious plans to grow this network as a brand."
On December 3, 2009, after months of rumors, a deal was formally announced in which Comcast would buy a stake in NBC Universal from GE. Under the agreement, NBC Universal would be controlled with a 51% stake by Comcast and GE would retain the remaining 49%. Comcast paid $6.5 billion cash to GE. The deal includes a provision under which Comcast must contribute $7.5 billion in programming including regional sports networks and cable channels such as Golf Channel, Versus, and E! Entertainment Television. GE used some of the funds, $5.8 billion, to buy out Vivendi's 20% minority stake in NBC Universal. Under the terms of the deal, Comcast reserves the right to buy out GE's share at certain times, and GE reserves the right to force the sale of their stake within the first seven years. Vivendi completed the initial transaction on September 27, 2010, selling a $2 billion stake to GE (approximately 7.66%).
U.S. regulators approved the proposed sale on January 18, 2011 with conditions. Comcast would have to give up NBC control over online video site Hulu, and ensure NBC Universal programming is available to competing cable operators.
On January 26, 2011, Vivendi sold its remaining shares in NBC Universal to GE, giving GE complete control of the company ahead of the completion of the sale of 51% of the company to Comcast on January 28, 2011. Comcast and GE formed the joint venture holding company NBCUniversal, LLC. NBC Universal, Inc. became a wholly owned subsidiary of the holding company and was renamed as NBCUniversal Media, LLC. Later that year, these two companies merged to become NBCUniversal, Inc.
Comcast had planned to buy out GE's 49% stake over the following seven years, but ownership of NBCUniversal remained split at 51–49% for two years, until the February 12, 2013 announcement that Comcast intended to complete the $16.7 billion purchase early, all at once. The sale was completed on March 19, 2013.
Originally, the NBC Universal logo was a combination of the NBC peacock logo and the Universal Studios globe and text. The logo was redesigned by Wolff Olins on January 31, 2011 to reflect the new Comcast ownership and the unity of its two main divisions.
In February 2013, NBCUniversal merged its two cable divisions, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment & Cable Studios and NBCUniversal Entertainment & Digital Networks and Integrated Media, into one unit while moving out Telemundo and Mun2 to a new division, NBCUniversal Hispanic Enterprises and Content. The move also created the corporate-level position of executive vice president in charge of digital ventures. In July, the company placed NBC TV Stations and Telemundo's O&Os stations into a new division, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, with New England Cable News being transferred into NBC TV Stations.
On April 28, 2016, NBCUniversal officially announced its intent to acquire DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion. Universal Pictures will take over the distribution for DreamWorks Animation films after their deal with 20th Century Fox Film Corporation expires. The sale was approved by board members, but was subject to regulatory approval. On June 21, 2016, the acquisition was approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. On August 22, 2016, the deal was completed, and DreamWorks Animation is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Comcast-NBCUniversal. This will give Universal Pictures distribution to both DreamWorks Animation and Illumination Entertainment films beginning in 2019.
On February 15, 2017, Universal Studios acquired a minority stake in Amblin Partners, strengthening the relationship between Universal and Amblin, and reuniting a minority percentage of the DreamWorks Pictures label with DreamWorks Animation.
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