General Electric reported Friday that NBC Universal's profits fell 15% in the third quarter to $625 million.
Revenues for NBCU were $4.1 billion, flat from a year ago.
In a note to NBCU employees, CEO Jeff Zucker said that excluding special charges, NBCU's profit on an operating basis was up 5% and marked the best third quarter since the merger of NBC and Universal more than six years ago. A year ago, the transaction in which A&E Television Networks acquired Lifetime boosted NBCU's revenue by 7% and operating profit by 5%.
"Given that the economy, although improving, is still far from robust, these are excellent results driven by superior execution throughout our operations," Zucker said.
GE is in the process of selling a controlling interest in NBCU to Comcast Corp.
GE said that NBC's large investment in new fall programming was paying off, with ratings up 4% and that the local ad market continues to be robust, with sales growth in the double-digit range. Zucker added that NBC is tied for No. 2. in the first three weeks of the season and the only English-language network to grow year-over-year.
On the cable side, GE noted that strong original programming propelled USA Network to be the top cable network for the 17th straight quarter and that Bravo had its best quarter in its history. CNBC's profits were up 5%.
In the quarter, GE completed the purchase of 7.7% of NBCU shares from Vivendi for $2 billion and completed a $5.1 billion debt offering.