Comcast to invest $300M more in NBCU this year

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Comcast Corp. will spend an extra $300 million this year on NBCUniversal, mostly to pay for new prime-time shows in a turnaround effort at broadcaster NBC.

The company, which bought a controlling interest in NBCUniversal in January, said $200 million will be spent mainly on new NBC shows to fill the 10 p.m. slot where Jay Leno briefly hosted a variety show every weeknight. It was a moneysaving move that was abandoned within months, after local stations complained that low ratings were hurting their 11 p.m. news.

Another $100 million will be spent on new shows on cable channels, which include Bravo, Oxygen, SyFy and E! Entertainment.

The company did not say how much NBCUniversal spent on shows last year.

NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke disclosed the figure Wednesday on a conference call with analysts following Tuesday’s release of Comcast Corp.’s upbeat first-quarter results.

“The real key to turning around NBC is not necessarily increased investment. The real key is making better shows,” Burke said.

The network already has a potential hit with “The Voice,” a singing competition show that debuted last week.

The company ordered 21 pilots of potential shows, the same number as last year, and will announce to advertisers in New York this month which ones it will order for the fall lineup.

Burke said the turnaround of the fourth-ranked network will take several years but is worth the investment. He said that even raising NBC to third place would mean hundreds of millions of dollars more in operating profit annually.

Although Comcast says it bought NBCUniversal for its lucrative cable channels, Comcast promised government regulators that it would invest in programming at the broadcast network.

Philadelphia-based Comcast on Tuesday reported first-quarter net income of $943 million, or 34 cents per share, for the first three months of the year. That’s up 9 percent from $866 million, or 31 cents, a year ago.

Excluding costs related to its acquisition of NBCUniversal from General Electric Co., earnings came to 36 cents per share. That topped the 34 cents average expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue rose 32 percent to $12.1 billion. That also beat the $11.45 billion expected by analysts. Comcast’s first-quarter results include two months of NBCUniversal’s, which weren’t included last year.