NEW YORK, – NBC Universal said on Tuesday it would buy Oxygen Media, the cable channel that caters to women and was co-founded by Oprah Winfrey, for $925 million in a bid to win a larger female audience and more closely link its TV and Internet businesses.
NBC Universal will add Oxygen, a network available in more than 74 million homes, to a cable TV business that already includes Bravo, USA, Sci-Fi, CNBC and MSNBC. The deal is expected to close in November.
NBC Universal, which is majority-owned by General Electric Co (GE), also said Oxygen complemented the iVillage.com Internet community site for women that it bought for $600 million in 2006.
NBC envisions Oxygen, along with the Bravo and iVillage properties, delivering a range of options to advertisers to reach the demographic of young women and affluent women, NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker said on a conference call.
Zucker also said the media company would consider taking a look at further acquisitions of cable networks, which now account for about 50 percent of the NBC Universal's profits.
"As we've said all along, cable is the real driver of this company," he said. "It's something we will always take a look at and always be interested in. There is nothing specific at this point, but we're always be opportunistic about other cable networks."
Oxygen was founded by Geraldine Laybourne, who will remain CEO through the end of the year, along with talk show host Oprah Winfrey. Microsoft Corp.(MSFT) co-founder Paul Allen has been one of its key investors.
NBC Universal said it paid about $12 for each subscriber in the deal, compared to the $22 per subscriber it paid in the deal for Bravo.
The acquisition "certainly makes sense in terms of focused demographics," said Richard Steinberg, president of Steinberg Global Asset Management. "As channels and choices for viewership become broader, the focus has to be much more targeted and not broad-stroked.
"The investment community and the media in general are extremely short-cycle-driven," said Steinberg, whose firm owns GE stock, "whereas GE and NBC Universal's Zucker certainly has a long term vision for the business and he's been enabled by senior management to try to accomplish it."
NBC Universal will fund the deal largely through the sale of certain assets, including one independent Telemundo television station in Los Angeles and another in Puerto Rico.
The company said that net of financial assets, the purchase price is about $875 million. It expects the acquisition to add to earnings after the first full year and to provide revenue and cost savings of about $35 million in 2008.
Shares of GE were up 23 cents at $41.76 on the New York Stock Exchange.