Comcast's NBCUniversal eyes 'hundreds of millions' in retransmission fees

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Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) NBCUniversal unit expects to generate "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars" each year by collecting retransmission consent fees from cable operators, NBCU chief Steve Burke said Wednesday.

Stephen Burke, Comcast NBCU

Burke: "Retransmission consent dollars ... (are) going to be a very good thing for NBCU"

"Retransmission consent dollars is not a good thing for the cable side of Comcast, but it's going to be a very good thing for NBCU," Burke said at a Bank of America investor conference.

Burke's comments aren't surprising. Cable MSOs have expected that Comcast would use its NBCU acquisition to drive revenue by collecting retransmission consent fees from distributors that carry programming from NBC's owned-and-operated TV stations. But Burke's public comments could spark some grumbling from Comcast's cable colleagues, and prompt some distributors to take a hard stand against calls for increased fees for retransmission consent.

One way Comcast may be able to quell the backlash it may see from pushing for increased retransmission consent fees for NBCU stations is by helping other cable operators make more money from its stable of national cable networks, including Bravo, USA Network, SyFy and Versus, which will be renamed NBC Sports Network in January. It could help cable operators generate more revenue from NBCU cable networks by providing marketing support, supplying additional ad-sales materials, and by sending celebrities from NBCU shows to events in local markets that can drive ad revenue and help cable operators sell new advanced services.

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