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With VUE, NBC Sees Big Picture

NBC's proposed $14 billion takeover of Vivendi Universal Entertainment takes away one asterisk: Now, just like all the other the rival network giants, NBC, too, will own its own studio. More important, though, the deal gives GE-owned NBC the bulk to stay in the game. "I think they absolutely need to do this," said media mogul Barry Diller. "It's a great transaction. Media consolidation demands it." NBC's prime objective is to get USA Network, that big established general-interest cable channel that grabbed $1 billion in revenue last year and is always among the top-viewed cable networks; the up-and-coming Sci Fi network; and the nascent Trio. The studio and theme parks are gravy. While far from the biggest media deal, the so-called NBC Universal will have twice the revenues of NBC and double the number of cable outlets. Chairman Bob Wright promises double-digit growth rates. If he delivers, the company could acquire even more properties. Indeed, for the industry, the future for NBC is its own dollar-and-sense version of Must-See TV.