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Maybe it would just be easier to say who isn't looking at NBC Universal

October 12, 2009 |  3:34 pm

John Malone wants NBC Universal. Sorry, I mean News Corp. is looking at it. No, not News Corp., it's Time Warner. And while we're at it, why not Disney, Viacom, or for that matter, Hyundai?Nbcuni

Head spinning? Ever since word leaked out last month that Comcast was in talks with GE about acquiring a 51% stake in NBC Universal, the deal-starved business media has been busy trying to find a rival bidder -- or find someone to speculate about a rival bidder. First there was Time Warner, but repeated denials from the company and its CEO, Jeff Bewkes, seems to have finally tamped down that speculation.

Now attention is turning to cable mogul John Malone's Liberty Media and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. CNBC reported that both are looking at NBC Universal. Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible. Is it likely? No, it's not likely. 

For starters, when a company like General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal is in play, everyone comes by to take a peak inside. It'd be foolish not to do that. It's like having an open house in your neighborhood. Don't you want to see how your neighbor has the kitchen set up? That doesn't mean they are all interested in buying the thing, of course.

Plus bankers have little better to do all day then drum up interest in a deal, and the more people they can bring to the party, the bigger the potential payoff.

We heard the rumblings about News Corp. last week, did some digging and are convinced there is nothing of substance there. That could change, and if it does it will be reported. But to just run with every rumor and scenario out there without any substance is pretty thin stuff. 

And if you are wondering why News Corp. doesn't come out and just say it is not interested in NBC Universal (we won't even get into the regulatory hurdles such a deal would face), it's because if a company starts to comment on one thing, it will soon have to comment on everything -- so it's just easier not to comment, period.

So far, there is one known player for NBC Universal, and that is Comcast. Interestingly, while NBC's CNBC is eager to report on all these other potential suitors, when news first was broken by The Wrap about Comcast's interest in NBC, the cable channel dismissed that report, saying it was "not much of a story at all."

No, that was the story then and remains the only story now.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: AP/Damian Davarganes