The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Comcast deal for NBC Universal: Who has the real story?

There's no more perfect example of the crazily competitive and cutthroat atmosphere that has infected showbiz reporting than the wonderfully venomous reaction -- largely courtesy of Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Finke -- to The Wrap's Sharon Waxman's scoop that GE has been negotiating a deal with Comcast to unload NBC Universal. Waxman's story is bolstered by two sources that told the Wrap that "a deal has already been completed at a purchase price of $35 billion."

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My colleague Joe Flint, who's also been following the story, also seems to believe a deal is in the works, though he is more cautious, saying Comcast is "kicking the tires" of NBC Universal, adding that "whether Comcast is making a serious run at all of NBC Universal outright or just acquiring a stake in the company or forming a joint venture remains to be seen." 

If there were ever a clear sign that GE is actually in serious talks with Comcast, it comes in the form of a comically obfuscatory companywide memo from NBC Uni chief Jeff Zucker, who pointedly doesn't deny that talks are taking place. He simply says (actually boasts might be a better way of describing it) that "given the attractive nature of our assets, there is always significant interest in NBC Universal." By assets, I'm assuming Zucker isn't talking about the potential DVD sales of "Love Happens."

Clearly torn by conflicting urges, Deadline Hollywood's Finke has been all over the map on the story, trying to nail down the actual deal while simultaneously trying to mock and disparage Waxman's scoop. Since The Wrap is Finke's leading rival in the entrepreneurial showbiz blog universe, there's been lots of passive-aggressive feuding between the reporters, even though it was Waxman who spotlighted the news that Finke had made a lucrative deal to sell her blog this year.

Comcast_logo

At any rate, Finke has been busily trying to belittle Waxman's Comcast story, even using a barnyard expletive to describe the story (one I'm not allowed to repeat here because of the LAT's decency standards) while also posting a screen grab of a page from the Huffington Post with various denials about the Comcast deal, headlined with "Tide Turns Against Waxman Report." However, a more recent Finke post now acknowledges that NBC Uni is in play, with "at least 5 or 6 interested parties vying for the studio including Comcast."

Where will it end? Clearly no one knows for sure. But you'd have to say that the blogosphere has given showbiz business reporting a huge shot in the arm since the squabbling over who's got the scoop has become even more fun to read than the stories about the deal itself.  

 
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Sharon Waxman has gained a reputation for publishing stories that are inaccurate and demand retractions which she never gives. That's why she was forced out at the New York Times. Hollywood doesn't want her either. Whoever gave her money for her site should have given it to charity instead.


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