NBC Universal: a media and entertainment giant

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The Independent Online

NBC Universal is a media and entertainment powerhouse with holdings ranging from Hollywood's storied Universal Studios to television stations to theme parks in the United States and Japan.

Cable television giant Comcast announced a deal Thursday to take a controlling stake in NBC Universal in a joint venture with conglomerate General Electric, according to a joint Comcast-GE statement.

The deal values the company, created in 2004 through a merger of NBC and France's Vivendi Universal Entertainment, at 30 billion dollars.

Headquartered in the Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan, NBC Universal is the fourth-biggest media and entertainment company in the world after The Walt Disney Co., Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Time Warner.

Its Hollywood film studio, Universal Pictures, has churned out a stream of Oscar-winning movies for 80 years, from "All Quiet on the Western Front" in 1930 to "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962), "The Deer Hunter" (1978) and "Schindler's List" (1993).

More recent Academy Award winners and box-office hits include "Atonement," "Brokeback Mountain," "A Beautiful Mind," "Lost in Translation," "Ray" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."

Universal Pictures claimed the most successful year in its history last year with "The Incredible Hulk," "Wanted," "Mamma Mia!" and "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" each surpassing 100 million dollars in US domestic ticket sales.

Universal's theme parks include Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.

NBC's cable and broadcast television holdings include flagship NBC, the oldest of the four major US broadcast networks along with ABC, CBS and Fox, financial news channel CNBC, 24-hour cable television news channel MSNBC, The Weather Channel, Bravo and Spanish-language broadcast network Telemundo.

Its hit television shows include "The Tonight Show," "Saturday Night Live," "The Cosby Show," "Miami Vice," "Seinfeld," "ER," "Friends," and more recently, "The Office," "30 Rock," "Heroes" and "Law & Order."

The network has seen a slump in ratings recently, however, and has given former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno five hours of prime-time programming a week instead of taking the risk of producing expensive new television series.

NBC has also long been the US television host of the Olympic Games and owns the rights to the event through 2012.

NBC Universal has also been making its presence felt on the Web through Hulu.com, an online video portal launched in March 2007 in partnership with News Corp. and Disney, which shows full-length television shows and movies.