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NBC Universal profit drops 30%, and that's before Conan's payout

January 22, 2010 | 12:29 pm

General Electric released its fourth-quarter earnings this morning, and let's just say that NBC Universal got sacked. NBC's costly contract for "Sunday Night Football" put a drag on the company's financial gains, and Universal films turned in lackluster results.  

Segment profit for NBC Universal was $602 million, 30% less than the fourth quarter of 2008. During the year-ago period, the media unit was floating on the success of "Mamma Mia" DVDs. Revenues for all of NBC Universal were down 4%, to $4.26 billion.

GE executives are already warning investors that the current quarter for the media company -- at least for the broadcast unit -- will be something of a wipeout. NBC's losses from its Winter Olympics coverage will be far greater than many were estimating: about $250 million. And then, of course, the company must account for the $33-million severance package to be paid to Conan O'Brien. The late-night debacle will cost NBC at least $45 million, including about $12 million to say good night to executive producer Jeff Ross, drummer Max Weinberg, sidekick Andy Richter and the 185 other people who worked on "The Tonight Show."

-- Meg James