Comcast sideshow

When a business reporter gets beaten on a story - say, a really big story like a possible Comcast purchase of NBC-Universal - his or her response is pretty predictable:

--Reflexively dismiss the scoop ("Just more of the same - there's nothing new here" is the common refrain).

--Deride the source of the scoop (as CNBC's David Faber did with his snarky reference to The Wrap - the scooper in question - as "an Internet entertainment gossip site," which, of course, it is not).

--Assure your editor that "I reported on these talks months ago," knowing full well that your editor can't even remember what he had for breakfast yesterday, let alone what you might have written about Comcast.

--Say that the information is coming from a second- or third-hand source who doesn't know what he or she is talking about (an easy maneuver since The Wrap is an upstart news organization that many editors back east haven't even heard of).

--Rejigger the initial scoop into a second-day story that makes it seem as if you knew the real news all along.

All of the above is playing out in various forms as everybody on the outside is trying to get a handle on what's going on inside. I haven't the foggiest notion of how accurate (or not) The Wrap's piece will turn out to be, but from all the smoke, it does seem like something is going on. Here's the latest top from AP:

Comcast Corp. is in preliminary talks to take a 20 percent to 50 percent stake in NBC Universal and increase its ownership of the TV shows and movies it distributes to its cable subscribers. General Electric Co., which owns 80 percent of NBC Universal, has been in talks with multiple parties, including Comcast, to unload part of the entertainment unit, according to people familiar with the negotiations. These people described the talks to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, confirming other reports, because the talks are still early.

Another tipoff is a memo sent out this morning by Jeff Zucker in which the NBC Universal CEO promises to update employees about what's happening - and then proceeds to say absolutely nothing.

Not surprisingly, given the attractive nature of our assets, there is always significant interest in NBC Universal. That has been amplified lately by the annual discussion with Vivendi about its 20 percent ownership of our company. Vivendi has been a superb owner of NBC Universal, along with GE, for more than five years. They have not yet made us aware of any final decisions about their future with us; should they choose to exit, there are a number of possible things that could happen. It is our longstanding policy not to comment on rumors, and we have adhered to that policy in connection with these rumors.

He ends this way:

Thanks, and you will continue to hear from me when there are updates.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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