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The New Mega-Conglom on the Block: NBC Universal

On Wednesday, October 8, 2003, NBC and Vivendi Universal made official the merger of their entertainment businesses. Newly named NBC Universal joins the ranks of Time Warner, Disney and Viacom. The new mega-conglom will control a broadcast network (NBC), various cable entities (USA, CNBC, Bravo, MSNBC, Telemundo, SCI-FI and Trio), a film and television studio (Universal Pictures and Television) and theme parks (Universal Studios Hollywood and Orlando).

NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., will control 80% of the new firm with Vivendi controlling the other 20. NBC is paying $3.8 billion in cash and taking on $1.7 billion of Vivendi's debt. If it wishes, the French firm will be able to sell its shares in NBC Universal beginning in 2006.

No employee suffering has been announced yet and NBC's chairman and chief executive Robert Wright, who will head up the new firm, said he has firm confidence in Universal Studios heads Ron Meyer and Stacey Snider. Vivendi Universal said it would keep Universal in it title for the time being, but has plans to eventually change it. Wright said that NBCs head of entertainment Jeff Zucker will be in charge of Universals cable channels USA, SCI-FI and Trio.

Entertainment entities owned by Vivendi not part of the deal include Universal Music Group, the largest music company; Canal Plus, a European pay-TV and film studio company; and Vivendis 70% share in Cegetel, France's No. 2 phone operator.

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