NBC Confirms GE Interested in a Partner, Not a Buyer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

NBC President Robert Wright confirmed in an interview Tuesday what had become evident in the flurry of recent news about the network: that parent General Electric does not want to sell NBC outright but might like a minority partner.

"GE's position at the present time is that they are not interested in selling NBC," Wright said. "This is a strong market for network television, and we generate a lot of earnings for GE."

Time Warner, Turner Broadcasting and Walt Disney have held talks with GE about acquiring or combining with the network. Wright declined to comment on any talks between NBC and other companies, but he offered a glimpse of the network's thinking.

"A partnership with an entertainment company could make a lot of sense, with many different possibilities," he said. But "you need two companies that share a vision. We don't have to do an arrangement with another company--this is not something we're hell-bent on doing."

Disney broke off talks with GE last week, sources said, because it wanted to acquire 100% of the network and GE wasn't interested. Time Warner is said to be in serious discussions with GE to acquire a 49% interest in the network.

In the interview, Wright squelched speculation that GE might separate the TV network from its lucrative owned-and-operated stations and spin off assets such as CNBC, its cable network, to Time Warner. "It doesn't make sense to separate the stations from the network," he said.

Nor does the company want to sell off CNBC and other cable properties, Wright said. He placed the total value of NBC's cable properties--including CNBC, a spinoff network called America's Talking, regional-sports partnerships and the recently acquired European network SuperChannel--at $1.5 billion.

"We do feel that we need to become more of a producer of programming, and I think many of our current suppliers believe that they need to become more of a distributor of programming," Wright said. He said the need grows as 1995 nears, marking the end of financial-interest and syndication rules prohibiting networks from owning programming.

Wright said he would like to continue running NBC in whatever form it takes. "I'm very committed to this business," he said.

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