Comcast (CMCSA), the nation's largest cable company, is reportedly in talks to buy NBC Universal, the entertainment giant, from General Electric (GE) in a blockbuster deal that -- if true -- would reverberate throughout the media world. Comcast, which has been on the hunt for a content-rich media company, has been scrutinizing NBC Universal's books for some time, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But Comcast denied a report from The Wrap's Sharon Waxman saying the cable giant had sealed a deal to pay $35 billion for NBC Universal. If consummated, the tie-up would marry NBC Universal's vast stable of content, from music to movies, with Comcast's giant digital-distribution network.
"While we do not normally comment on M&A rumors, the report that Comcast has a deal to purchase NBC Universal is inaccurate," a Comcast spokesperson said in a statement emailed to DailyFinance late Wednesday.
NBC Universal was similarly tight-lipped. "We have no comment," NBC Executive Vice President Allison Gollust told the Washington Post.
GE, which owns 80 percent of NBC Universal, is also said to be entertaining offers from buyers other than Comcast, including possibly Time Warner, the media giant that owns CNN and is itself the subject of speculation that it might spin off Time Inc., its storied stable of magazine titles.
French media giant Vivendi owns the remaining 20 percent of NBC Universal and has been weighing whether to sell its stake, an option it can excercise every year in November, per the 2004 deal with GE. News of the cable giant's interest may spur Time Warner, which is sitting on about $7 billion cash, to get off the sidelines. (Time Warner is preparing to spin off AOL, which publishes DailyFinance.)
Comcast, which has about $4 billion cash on hand, is hungry to gain control of a major media company in part because its new cable subscriber growth is slowing, but also to feed its ambitious plan to provide content "on-demand" through its cable pipes. Comcast has nearly 25 million cable subscribers.