NBCU Chief Jeff Shell Says Comcast Open To “Bolt-On” Deals, Cites DreamWorks Animation Acquisition, Blumhouse Venture

NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell said the company is always eyeing possible deals to bolster its business, citing the $3.8-billion acquisition of DreamWorks Animation in 2016 and Universal’s partnership with Blumhouse Productions.

Shell jumped in after Comcast President Mike Cavanagh noted new deals have a high hurdle versus investing in existing operations. The execs were asked about M&A on a post-earnings conference call, with particular reference to World Wrestling Entertainment. Vince McMahon, WWE’s majority owner and newly returned executive chairman is looking to sell with Comcast considered a logical buyer. WWE Network programming has been popular on Peacock and helped drive subscriber acquisitions since the service took exclusive U.S. streaming rights in 2021. Shell didn’t address WWE but said the conglom led by Brian Roberts would be opportunistic.

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An with a market cap of $6.45 billion, WWE is not a mega-deal.

“We are always looking for bolt-on acquisitions that bolster our businesses. Two examples: we bought DreamWorks [Animation]… and it has been paying off steadily since our acquisition. Just now, with Puss In Boots [The Last Wish], which is a bit hit at the box office and really our entrance back into the Shrek universe, continues to make that acquisition look really favorable,” Shell said.

“And our Blumhouse investment over time, where we’re partners with Jason Blum, and we have a big hit, M3GAN, this month, which is coming out of that investment.”

The comments come as Wall Street and industry players wonder if and how MA& activity will resume in 2023 after a 2022 stunted by economic jitters, high inflation and a battered stock market.

Cavanagh said any outside deal would be weighed against Comcast investing directly in its own businesses, “where we control it, operate it, know what we’re doing, have no surprises.” He was promoted from CFO last fall and it working closely with Roberts on strategy.

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