NBC Poised For Retrans Windfall?

Burke Says 25% of Deals Expire in 2012

NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke said that about 25% of retransmission consent deals for its owned and operated stations come due by the end of this year, a possible opportunity to take advantage of the late ratings surge at the network.

On a conference call with analysts to discuss third quarter results, Burke said that NBCU sees retrans fees as a growth opportunity, adding that the broadcaster will have to wait until current deals expire before it can take full advantage. He added that deal representing about 25% of its subscriber base expire at the end of 2012 and that some of those deals have already been concluded in a “handshake fashion.”

“We’re getting what we think is a fair price for retransmission consent,” Burke added.

Burke added that NBCU also has had discussion with its affiliate stations concerning so-called reverse compensation, where the network receives a portion of their retrans fees, similar to what other broadcasters like ABC, CBS and Fox have done with their stations.

“Obviously retransmission consent is a major positive for all broadcast businesses, including NBC,” Burke said. “We are right on schedule, right on where we thought we would be in terms of getting those deals done.”

NBC has performed well in the new broadcast season, taking the No. 1 ratings spot the first three weeks in October in the coveted 18-49 demographic, on strong viewership for NFL football and early breakout hit Revolution.

Earlier in the week, ISI Group media analysts Vijay Jayant and David Joyce had estimated that NBC was poised to cash in on retrans in the future, estimating that the company could reap about $125 million in wsuch fees in 2012. While that is well behind retrans leader CBS, which is on track to attract more than $250 million in retrans this year, NBC owns substantially fewer stations – 10 across the country versus 29 for CBS.