Little should change soon at the ever-evolving NBC

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2009 2:21 PM

NBC viewers shouldn't expect much to change any time soon, even now that Comcast Corp. plans to take control. Decisions on next fall's TV season _ such as whether Jay Leno should stay in prime time _ will be made well before the cable TV provider can expect regulatory approval for its 51 percent stake in NBC.

At least for now, Jeff Zucker will keep running the network. Comcast says that if it becomes majority owner, it would improve local news and public affairs programming. Comcast also pledged not to let its business interests affect NBC News.

It certainly wouldn't be the first change in corporate oversight at the Peacock network.

NBC got its start in 1926 as the nation's first radio network. Its parent company, the Radio Corporation of America, figured people would buy radios if they had interesting things to listen to.

The network began TV broadcasts in 1939 and produced TV's first star in Milton Berle in 1948. Though it faced fierce competition over the decades, NBC was formidable in the 1990s, with Thursdays declared a "must-see" night of television.

Lately, NBC has been sagging in fourth place, struggling to find a hit.

In agreeing to sell a controlling stake to Comcast, General Electric Co. is unraveling part of the legacy of former Chairman Jack Welch. In 1986 he bought RCA and NBC to help his industrial conglomerate get a reliable source of cash while overseas manufacturing competition loomed.

GE obtained the Universal Pictures movie studio and theme parks from Vivendi SA in 2004 in a deal that gave Vivendi a 20 percent stake in the combined venture, NBC Universal.

Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia, says NBC Universal would keep its base in New York. GE is still going to own 49 percent for at least 3 1/2 years, so there's little reason for it to evict NBC from the GE building at 30 Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan.

At most the NBC comedy series "30 Rock," about a fictional version of NBC, will need to satirize a different parent company _ one known for installing cable boxes rather than making microwave ovens.